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UEL road to Rio: Shannon Hylton aiming to fast-track her career at Olympics

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UEL biomedical science student chasing place at Rio Olympics in 200 metres and 4x100 metres relay 

Shannon Hylton is hoping age will be no barrier to fulfilling her dream of competing in Rio this summer as she prepares for the all-important UK Olympic trials later this month.

The University of East London (UEL) sports scholar is one of the country’s most promising sprint prospects after a breakthrough 2015 season that saw her win a 200 metres silver medal at the European Junior Championships and smash the 23-second barrier for the 200 metres – a benchmark of world-class sprinting.

But, at the age of just 19, she is the youngest of the current crop of female British sprinters with a genuine chance of earning Olympic selection and she faces fierce competition for a place in Rio in both her specialist 200 metres event and the 4x100 metres relay.

Realistically, she is unlikely to hit top speed until the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 but Shannon has no intention of waiting around for another four years when she competes at the Rio trials in Birmingham from June 24-26.

“I obviously want to be at my peak in 2020 but I would really love to make the 200 metres this summer,” she said. “Just because you’re young, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to be there.

“Age shouldn’t be a barrier. You have 16-year-olds breaking 11 seconds over 100 metres and running mid-22 seconds over 200 metres, so if everything comes together at trials I'd love to make the Games this year."

Shannon, who has just completed the first year of her biomedical science degree, opened her season with a 200 metres victory at the Loughborough International last month.

However, she was forced to miss the earlier British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championships after problems with her hip over the winter meant she had to delay the start of her outdoor campaign.

The challenge she faces at the trials is that the women’s 200 metres is currently one of the most hotly contested events in British athletics, with six or more athletes chasing the three available spots.

Among them is fellow UEL student Bianca Williams, the double Commonwealth bronze medallist who has been ranked No 2 in the UK for the past two years.

“This year the women’s 200 metres is just stacked,” said Shannon. “Everyone is raising their game this year in both the 100 and 200 metres, so I’ve got a lot to compete against.”

Shannon is also aiming to be selected for the 4x100 metres relay squad, but would dearly love to compete in the 200 metres against her heroine, Allyson Felix. The American, who won three golds at the London 2012 Olympics, has said Rio will be her last Games.

“Allyson Felix is one my greatest idols and this is going to be her last Olympics so it would be such an amazing experience to race against her and be in that moment.

“To make it to Rio would mean the world, honestly. I can’t even describe what the feeling must be like to be an Olympian.”

With fellow UEL students Aimee Willmott and Lawrence Okolie having already booked their places in Rio in swimming and boxing respectively, Shannon is hoping there will be more for the University to celebrate by the end of the month.

“It would be great to have a UEL squad in Rio. I saw that Aimee and Lawrence have done really well to qualify already and hopefully Bianca and I will qualify, too. That would be really cool.”