IT WAS five seconds to forget for Craig Pickering in Beijing three years ago, and with his sights now firmly focused on the London 2012 Olympics, he hopes to do just that.
The Milton Keynes sprinter, running the final leg of the 4x100m relay, set off too quickly and the Great Britain squad that looked good for a medal were therefore disqualified, with Pickering claiming full responsibility.
But after a tough spell of injuries and a dip in form, the 24-year-old is keen to prove himself once again on the biggest stage of them all.
At the recent Diamond League meeting at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, Pickering equalled his season’s best time of 10.23s to finish sixth in his 100m heat, just a few days after running 10.27s at a meeting in Switzerland.
And now he thinks he’s returning to the sort of form that saw him become one of the country’s leading 100m runners, and win World Championship relay bronze in 2007.
“At the moment we’re concentrating on the World Championships in August and qualifying for those,” said Pickering, who also took European Indoor Championship silver in 2007. “But the Olympics is always there in the back of our minds.
“It’s a double-edged sword really. We all want to be there, but we have to perform in these tournaments before to make sure we’re still in the running for the Olympics.”
Pickering’s experience at Beijing 2008, being part of the show and being able to compete at the Bird’s Nest Stadium, he ranks as one of the best of his life – and would love to be part of it all again next July.
“The atmosphere at the Olympics is amazing – there’s a great buzz around the place and the athletes are obviously the best in the world,” said Pickering.
“You get to travel the world, mix with the best sportsmen and women, and the team spirit among the athletes is phenomenal. And with it being held in London it’ll be a dream come true to be part of it.
“Having it in your home country is one of the biggest things we could imagine as athletes. The desire to perform in your home country is incredible, and we don’t want to let anyone down.”
But while the dream for any athlete is obviously to take the gold medal on the biggest stage of them all, Pickering remains cautious about his prospects ahead of the Games against Usain Bolt and company.
He said: “I’m realistic. I’d love to be part of the relay team, and I believe there’s a genuine chance of winning a medal there.
“But if I were to make the final of the 100m, that is the ultimate dream.”
Before all that Pickering’s thoughts are focused on qualifying for the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea next month. And he’ll get his chance to impress when he returns to Birmingham for the UK Trials and Championships in a fortnight.