Andrew Pozzi laments Brexit rules that threaten Olympic hurdling hopes

Britain’s world champion hurdler Andrew Pozzi fears his Olympic dream is under threat because of Brexi regulations that could force him to quit his training base in Italy.

Pozzi’s career has been revitalised since he moved to Formia in 2018 to train under the Cuban hurdling guru Santiago Antunez and he is the favourite to add the European Indoor 60m hurdle title to his world indoor crown this weekend in Poland.

The 28-year-old says the Brexit rules, which allow UK passport holders to spend up to only 90 days in the Schengen zone during a 180-day period, have left him desperately trying to secure full-time Italian residency in the run-up to the Tokyo Games.

“I plan to continue in Italy but it is certainly going to be difficult," él dijo. “If any of you guys want to use your powers to help lobby for sports visas, or anything like that, then feel free. It is a work in progress, to be honest. Getting information about the best way to continue in Italy has been very difficult.

“The good thing for me is I have the support of the training centre in Formia, and they are trying to do some things locally to help me. But the current rule is that you can only be in Europe 90 days out of every 180. Obviously for an athlete that is not sustainable, and it is not the way to prepare.”

Under Antunez, Pozzi has focused on rhythm-based exercises and drills, often to salsa music, that have prevented the injuries that threatened to derail his career and helped get him in the best shape of his life. But he says the consequences of leaving the Cuban in an Olympic year could be devastating.

“I have lost an awful lot of years in my career to injury," él dijo. “It has been a big part of my career. We have done everything we can to make sure I stay in the best shape possible and keep making progress. It looks like the Olympics are going to go ahead – and you don’t want to give it away.”

Despite having Italian relatives, Pozzi is unable to get a passport. “They are a bit too far away, Desafortunadamente. Much to the sadness of the local Italians when they realise I am English with my surname, which does originate from Italy. It is a long way back for me to blag another passport now for sure.

“It is tricky but I think taking up residency in Italy should make things a little bit easier. It is an issue for me to pick up Monday morning.”

Por ahora, aunque, Pozzi’s mind is focused on winning the European Indoors in Torun, starting with his heats on Saturday. And he says he is encouraged by a strong indoor season. “I am back in really good shape, I am much happier going into this. It’s very possible if things go well and I have good races, I will be back at my best and looking to run a personal best.”

Most medals will be decided on Saturday and Sunday, but British athletes have made an encouraging start to these championships. The exciting 800m prodigy Keely Hodgkinson, who has run under two minutes this year despite turning 19 only on Wednesday, looked particularly good in qualifying for the semi-finals in 2min 05.64sec.

And Hodgkinson, who is trained by the former European champion Jenny Meadows and her husband Trevor Painter, said she felt comfortable on her senior debut. “I’m like the little fish because I’m the youngest," ella dijo. “So I wouldn’t say there is any pressure on me. I’m learning all the time.”

Ellie Baker, 22, and Isabelle Boffey, 20, also made it through to Saturday’s semi-finals, with Baker hailing her teammates. “These girls are insane," ella dijo. “We are all young and in the next generation of 800m running so it is a very exciting time for all three of us.”

Holly Archer and Katie Snowden are through to the women’s 1500m final, with Archer – who ran a 4:09.77 personal best – looking particularly impressive. “I’m here to compete, not just to turn up," ella dijo. “I want to compete in that final. It’s the best opportunity I’ve ever had.”

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