JESSICA Judd hopes by linking up with new coach Rob Denmark she has started a relationship that will last her entire career.
The 17-year-old middle-distance star has been taken under the wing of Denmark, bridging two generations of Canvey athletics stars.
And Denmark – a Commonwealth Games gold medallist and two-time Olympian – will be looking to mastermind a similarly successful career for his latest protégée.
“It’s really exciting,” said Judd, the current World Junior silver medallist for 800m. “I’ve always respected Rob and what he has achieved and he went to the same school (Furtherwick Park, Canvey) as my dad so there’s the Canvey link too. It’s a big step for me and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Judd describes her split with former coach Jeremy Freeman as a mutual decision and admitted to being a bit nervous about her future before Denmark was approached.
“Jeremy and I parted in a good way and there is still a friendship there,” said Judd.
“But it was a tough time. I didn’t know what would happen and I was in a position I never really expected to find myself in.
“My dad and my sister (Jodie) were great and really helped me, and so was my school (King John). It was actually one of the teachers at school who suggested Rob and they made contact with him.
“We met up and talked for three hours and after that decided, ‘let’s do it’. It’s really exciting.
“I’m really happy with how things have worked out. I really hope we can go a long way together and he can be my coach for the rest of my career.”
The pair have drawn up a plan for this winter with Judd’s first test coming in the McCain Cross-Country Challenge in Bristol on October 28.
“That’s going to be a bit of warm up to see where I am ahead of the European Cross-Country trials in Liverpool (in November),” she said.
The teenage Chelmsford AC athlete says training has been “tough but enjoyable” under Denmark, who also coaches another top Canvey talent, Basildon AC’s Dale Clutterbuck.
But with Clutterbuck and Chris Youell – another middle distance specialist who has joined up with Denmark from Freeman’s training group – away at university, Judd is having to get used to training on her own a bit more.
“It’s hard and I am on my own, but I’ve got (sister) Jodie who is always trying to beat me and the other guys when they are back from uni,” she said.
“Dale was back at the weekend and we did a session together and that was good. It was tough, but good fun!”
Denmark said what he’s seen from Judd on their sessions so far he’s liked, and he is looking forward to building their relationship.
“I think I’ve got a 17-year-old who works extremely hard and who will continue to work hard. She wants to learn and her ability to take on new challenges is phenomenal,” he said.
“She’s got a strong character and you need that to be a successful athlete. I’ve never met an Olympic champion, or any top athlete, who hasn’t got a strong character. You need it to cope with the pressure, and Jess has that.”