In the first of our previews with Barnsley sportspeople about the upcoming year, the sprinter from Darton discusses his ambitions to reach the Olympics and run 200m in less than 20 seconds

JOE FERGUSON is hoping 2024 will be a ‘life-changing year’ as he targets a place on the Great Britain athletics team at the Paris Olympics.

The 23-year-old from Darton has been one of the fastest 200m runners in the country in recent years, winning several national medals and representing Team GB at the World Championships in 2022.

His long-term goal has been the Paris Olympics in July and August.

Ferguson said: “It’s starting to become real in my head now.

“When it’s 2024, it’s actually the Olympic year. To say I am an Olympic hopeful is crazy.

“A few years ago it was just a dream to put on a GB kit. It’s a surreal feeling

“I just need to turn it into reality now.

“It could be a life-changing year.

“I know not many people from our area get to the Olympics but it would be a dream come true.”

The qualifying time for Paris is 20.16.

Joe would need to run that at least once and also finish in the top two at the British Championships, which he has in the last two years.

Ferguson, whose personal best is 20.23, said: “It’s never been harder to get to the Olympics. It’s the fastest qualifying standard ever. My current PB would have qualified me in any other year.

“I definitely believe it’s in me. When I ran a PB in 2022, I thought there was more to come. If you piece together my best first 100m and my best second 100m in a 200m race, it’s exactly 20.16.

“My true aim long-term is to get under 20 seconds and I believe I will.

“I just need to stay healthy, keep working hard, peak at the right time and get it right on the day.

“It would make me one of the fastest British runners ever.”

Ferguson has already run the qualifying time for the European Championships in Rome in June.

He would need to stay in the top four in the rankings to make the team for the 200m.

“The plan is to go to Rome and put down a marker.

“It’s a great opportunity to run really quick. I definitely want to make the final and maybe even get a medal.

“It’s before the Olympic trials so it could be a chance to run the qualifying time for Paris and then finish in the top two in the trials again.”

Ferguson suffered serious facial injuries in February when he collided with another athlete while warming up for an event. He missed 12 weeks of training.

“Last year was tough. I set off on a bad footing and had to play catch up but I made the best of a bad situation.

“This year I feel a lot better and just need to keep doing what I am doing.

“Everything is looking good, I am training hard.

“I am feeling in good shape.

“I had a little bit of a hiccup with a hamstring injury but I am over it now.

“I am not putting too much pressure on myself for the indoor season, we will use it as a warm-up, to inform my training, and to see where I am for the outdoor season which is the big one.”

Ferguson, who trains six days a week mainly at the EIS in Sheffield, has recently graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a masters in psychology but has put that career on hold for at least the next year to focus on his running, while still working part-time in a jewellers.

He also runs a YouTube channel detailing his journey to Paris.