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Pechonkina virtually stalked me: Pittman

Sydney: Australia’s new world champion Jana Pittman claimed on Sunday she had to overcome bizarre pre-race intimidation from Russian rival Yuliya Pechonkina before winning the 400m hurdles in Paris last month. According to Pittman, the world record holder Pechonkina virtually stalked her before the final.

“It was bizarre, I’ve never experienced it before because most of the girls are quite nice,” Pittman told Channel Seven here on Sunday. “We race against each other eight times a year so we generally talk.

“(But) on the warm-up track she was in my area. Most athletes don’t stay anywhere near each other in warm-up. She used my hurdles, she stretched in the same 10-metre spot as me, she did all her run-throughs at the same time (as me) — she was really there.”

Pittman’s coach Phil King told her to sit well away from the Russian in the room where the athletes gather before the race. “But she sat next to me,” Pittman said. “So I got up and moved, and she moved with me, and I got up and moved, and she moved with me.”

Pechonkina faded to finish third after leading into the straight.

Pittman arrived home on Saturday and claimed she had more improvement left than any of her rivals ahead of next year’s Athens Olympics. The 20-year-old warned them she would be stronger and faster for her tilt at Olympic glory next year.

“Probably out of the girls in the field I'm probably the one that is going to improve the most over the next year,” Pittman said.

“I’m the youngest and the most inexperienced, which showed up in a couple of my races in Europe this year which probably made people think ‘Ooh, I don’t know if she’s going to do this’.

“But we had confidence and I know that in the next year I will get stronger, faster and certainly between my head, I will start becoming more confident.”

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