JENNA Blundell’s decision to purse her academic career at Sheffield University is already paying dividends – in particular with her athletics ambitions, writes KEVIN FAHEY.

The British junior international athlete, from Staverton, has linked up with Toni Minichiello, regarded as one of the best multi-event coaches in the world.

Minichiello cemented his reputation as a coach after guiding Jessica Ennis-Hill to that famous heptathlon gold medal on Super Saturday at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and since then he has also acquired a big following for his acute observations on the BBC athletics team.

Minichiello has a big group of athletes based in Sheffield, so one of Blundell’s first tasks when moving to South Yorkshire was to ask to join his group in a bid to carry on her remarkable progress over the past 18 months.

“I am very happy to be here in Sheffield and to be coached by Toni as well,” said Blundell, a former student at St Laurence School in Bradford on Avon.

“To know I am doing the same sort of training that Jess did and which helped to make her such a great athlete is very motivating.

“You know that whatever Toni gets you do in training works, and there is no doubt at all in his training methods. His work is proven, so I am really excited about the 2020 season now and what that will bring.”

Initially, Blundell has had to work hard to make sure her training and academic responsibilities work together, plus the new demands of being away from home for the first time and getting used to a different lifestyle.

“At the moment we are taking it fairly steady as I adapt to a new programme,” added Blundell, who has signed up for a sociology degree.

“There are also two Irish girls who have joined the group, including Kate O’Connor who won the silver medal at the European Junior Championships this summer, so there are three of us newbies trying to fit in so that is nice for us all to be together in the same boat.

“It is all very new and very exciting so we’ll see what happens as time goes on.”