SOPHIE Hitchon has smashed the long-standing British record for the women’s hammer – and taken a huge step towards selection for next year’s Olympics.

The World Junior champion broke the U20s record numerous times over the last couple of years, leaving the record at 66.01 metres as she steps out of the junior division for 2011.

But there were still four seniors ahead of her in the all-time rankings. Lorraine Shaw, the existing British record holder, was nearly three metres ahead of the Blackburn Harrier with 68.93m, but in only her second competition of the summer, it took Sophie only two throws to overtake all four.

Competing as a guest in the British Universities Champion-ships at Bedford, she opened with 65.70m before setting the record at 68.97m.

After two no-throws, she launched an even bigger effort of 69.43m – maybe even more significant as it surpasses the 69-metre mark designated the Olympic ‘B’ Standard.

As luck would have it, as recently as April 26, the IAAF announced that the qualifying date for the 2012 Olympics would be put back from October 1 to May 1 this year to give athletes more chances – and although she didn’t realise it until afterwards – Sophie has got there on the very first day possible.

While this is far from a guarantee of Olympic selection, she told the Lancashire Telegraph: “It gives me a lot of confidence to move forwards to 2012.”

Hitchon is currently training as a full time athlete at Loughborough using the university’s facilities twice a day, but so far had only been in competitive action once before in 2011 as there are no indoor competitions for the event.

She threw 64.16m at the European Cup Winter Throws meeting at Sophia, Bulgaria in March, then has been warm weather training in Portugal, but there will be more competitions in the coming weeks.

She is hoping to compete at Eton as a guest this weekend before flying to Gothenburg and Halle in Germany, where she has previously produced personal bests.