A GREAT Sankey athlete is hoping to cross the first hurdle in her Olympic dream by bagging a Commonwealth Games spot this summer.

Abi Fitzpatrick, who runs for Sale Harriers, is currently ranked first in the United Kingdom in the 400m hurdles at under 23 level and sixth at senior level.

Qualification for Glasgow this year is part of a long-term Olympic dream for the 20-year-old, who has already competed for Great Britain at youth events in Singapore, Russia and Estonia.

“You can’t beat the Olympics, but the Commonwealth Games is a stepping stone towards that,” she added.

“I’ve been with my coach since I was 16 and we put together a six-year plan to improve my power, strength and speed to make Rio 2016, when I’ll be 22.

“I’m above my targets so far, so it’s a case of making the same improvements and if I can make the same progress then it’s definitely a realistic goal.

“It’s such a hard event to nail because 400m hurts enough, but add 10 hurdles and that’s 10 more things that could go wrong.

“It’s really hard to become a perfectionist ; at 22 I’ll be young, but four years later at 26 is when I’m looking to really compete and not just fill a lane.”

The Liverpool John Moores student will soon jet off to compete on the European circuit, before returning to the UK for the Commonwealth Games trials in June.

“I’m racing in places like France, Belgium and Italy because in England you can’t guarantee the weather,” she explained.

“There’s also better competition abroad and I can compete against the seniors, I’m aiming to get the A standard time and then come back for the trials.

“I’m quite confident I can make it as my times are really close and, being the Commonwealth Games, a couple of the senior women ahead of me are competing for Ireland and Scotland.”

But it could have been very different for the former Warrington Athletics Club runner, who only started racing to aid her football career with Liverpool.

“I wanted to play football as I loved it,” she said. “I started going to the track twice a week to make me a better footballer.

“Then I broke the school 300m record that had stood for 36 years and in my second race at Warrington ran the third fastest time at my age in the country!

“I went to Singapore and it was a case of having to give up the football so as not to risk injury, I’ve not regretted it since.”

Local car dealer Vanrooyen, based at Gemini, have recently sponsored Abi with a Mercedes ahead of her bid for Commonwealth success.