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Blake books World Championships and Olympics berths

'Tremendous boost' - MAAA president

Tanya Blake... fast time in Oregon.

Tanya Blake... fast time in Oregon.

Tanya Blake's impressive performance in last weekend's Prefontaine Classic Grand Prix in Oregon, US, where she set a new national mark for the 800m distance, has given the Malta athlete an automatic right to participate in next August's World Championships in Paris and the Athens Olympics next year.

Blake, who holds dual citizenship, clocked 1:59.56 on her way to placing fourth behind Olympic and world gold medallist Maria Mutola of Mozambique, Jearl Miles Clark, of the US, and Canada's Diane Cummins.

Blake's timing beat the qualifying standard of two minutes flat set by the International Association of Athletics Federations for its two most prestigious appointments in the calendar.

Contacted by The Times, Malta Amateur Athletic Association president Tony Chircop, confirmed the news and said Blake's qualification is a landmark for local athletics.

"It's a great achievement to have someone like Tanya securing the privilege of participating in the Olympics and the World Championships on her own merits," Chircop said.

"We have always figured in the Olympics and the World Championships before thanks only to the universality concept, adopted by the IAAF and the IOC, for these manifestations. But now, we have broken new ground thanks to Tanya's remarkable feat. She has been training really hard during the past two years and this achievement is a just reward for her efforts.

"This year she changed coach and went for a new style of training. The move seems to be working wonders so far. Under her new trainer, from the US, timings have improved consistently. Certainly, all this augurs well for her future career and Malta's chances in the GSSE where she could win three gold medals."

Before the World Championships, Blake is also expected to form part of a European small states selection in the European Cup Second Division. This will be held in Aarhus, Denmark, between June 21 and 22.

Blake is residing in the US and trains with the Los Angeles Track Club - the same club with whom sprint legend Carl Lewis shot to fame.

At first, she was expected to arrive in Malta for the GSSE on May 18 to start her final preparations with her team-mates. However, she delayed her arrival after receiving an invitation for the Prefontaine Classic.

The Malta Olympic Committee and the MAAA gave their full backing for Blake's participation in Oregon as they believed a good performance in that top-level meet, where some of the world's best athletes are invited, would considerably boost Malta's middle distance runner.

Recently Blake was also invited by American organisers to take part in another meeting to act as pacesetter for US veteran Regina Jacobs who was targeting a national record in the 800m.

Jacobs, 39, failed to achieve that goal, but Blake was still strong enough to set a new personal best for the distance before bettering it again last weekend. In Oregon, Jacobs was sixth in the 800m race in 2:00.01.

When the IAAF last issued its rankings for the various events, Blake was no.41 in the 800m class, an improvement of four places on the previous list. However, that position is set to improve even further when the next rankings are issued.

Blake made her debut in our colours in the San Marino GSSE, in 2001. She got to know of her chances to run for Malta after someone mailed a copy of The Athlete magazine, the MAAA's official organ, to her mother who resides in the UK. She immediately informed her daughter and the first contacts with the MAAA were established.

At first, Blake seemed reluctant but then was excited about the prospect of running for Malta.

"I had told her that representing a small country like ours in the Olympics or World Championships would attract more interest than running for Great Britain," Chircop said.

"Hopefully, now her success will attract more of our youngsters to the sport. Certainly, Tanya's result last weekend was a tremendous boost for us ahead of the Games."

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