HAMMER thrower Jess Mayho is targeting a spot in the Tokyo Olympics after making an impressive comeback from injury, which has seen her rise toward the top of the UK rankings.

The Cononley woman, who is part of a well-known Keighley sporting family, is currently ranked third in England and fourth in Great Britain.

And while the 23-year-old former Bingley Harrier has one eye on the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast in Australia, her real focus is on the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

Mayho, who now competes under the Birchfield Harriers banner, is far from ploughing a lone furrow, however, with elder sisters Hannah, 26, and Lucy, 29 (a former England cross-country runner), and mum and dad Helen and Dennis all part of a close-knit support network that also includes Jess’ coach Matt Lambley.

Her previous mentor Mike Morley died in 2014, prompting the change to former hammer thrower Matt, who Jess has known for almost a decade.

A calf injury ruined most of last season, with the the former Parkside pupil, who used to live in Cullingworth, saying: “It happened at the Yorkshire Championships last May, and I was a bit naive and probably tried to come back too soon as I didn’t want to waste all the work of the previous winter.

“But the hammer is such a technical event, with sprints, biometrics and weights all playing a part, and it never really happened for me last year when I resumed competition.”

This year, however, has been very different, with Jess, who has a part-time job at Leeds University involving bookings and administration that dovetails well with her training, which is also in the city.

She is certainly a long way ahead of the teenager who was 152nd in the UK rankings and 28th under-17 in 2009 with 35.69 metres.

Since then, Jess has gone from 72nd in 2010 with 43.38m to 33rd in 2011 with 49.91m to 24th in 2012 with 53.32m. Her progress continued in 2013, when she was fourth under-23 and 15th overall with 56.40m, and she cracked the top ten in 2015 with 59.92m, rising to ninth last year with 61.02m.

This year, however, Jess has made more significant improvements, with a personal best 63.05m in Vila Nova de Cerveira in Portugal in late April, and a Yorkshire Championship record of 61.62m last month.

Immediately above her in the UK rankings are Cleckheaton’s Sarah Holt (Sale Harriers) with 63.40m, Scot Rachel Hunter (North Ayrshire) with 66.46m and Olympic Games bronze medallist Sophie Hitchon (Blackburn) with 73.97m.

Jess, who came fifth representing England at the Loughborough International last month, said: “I also used to play netball to just below England screening level and was told when I was 17 that I would have to concentrate on one thing or the other – hammer throwing or netball.

“I opted for the hammer, while still playing netball at recreational level for the social aspect.

“I then went to Sheffield Hallam University to study business management with hospitality, and my training suffered in my final year when I was concentrating on my studies.

“The move to Birchfield Harriers (in Birmingham) came about so that I could get more used to competing against the top girls.

“Now I have been handed my England vest and am focusing more on getting to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, rather than the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where the qualification mark, which needs to be met by October, is 67.50m.

“Other big events are the British Championships in Birmingham on July 1 and the Cork International Games, to which I have been invited due to my contacts, on July 18.”

Perhaps mindful of what happened to her sister Hannah, who is now on her way to being a successful dietician after a serious accident ended her cycling career and potentially robbed her of a place at the London Olympics, Jess is currently directing all her efforts on her sport.

She said: “At the moment, I haven’t got a ‘proper job’. There is time for that later.

“I am training twice a day six days a week. You are only young once and I want to see how far hammer throwing can take me.”

* Jess is backed by Sutcliffe Construction, Bottega Hairdressing and L1 performance.