RESPECTED Olympic coach Dick Telford believes shock Commonwealth Games inclusion Melanie Panayiotou is a chance to represent Australia at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in two years.
Telford called the Australia Zoo head vet's presence in Glasgow a "fairytale" but insisted she was capable of rising even further once she got more experience running marathons.
"She hasn't really learnt to run - she's a one-speed runner at this stage," Telford said yesterday.
"That's what I'll be working on, to see whether she can improve and how much she can improve."
Panayiotou's inclusion in the Australia team is remarkable considering her inexperience on the world stage and the fact she fits training around her full-time job caring for Australia Zoo's 1200 animals.
"She's waking up at 4.30am and training then going to work and doing another training session at 5.30pm or 6pm when it's dark," Telford said of the 30-year-old.
"Her work ethic is unbelievable.
"It doesn't surprise me that she is doing so well with her job at Australia Zoo."
That work ethic has helped her improve dramatically during a year with Telford, who has trained marathon medallists at the past two Commonwealth Games and several former world and Olympic champions.
"She'll do everything she possibly can to improve," he said.
"If I gave her something stupid in a training program she would probably just go and do it - that's why I've got to be very careful.
"She doesn't shirk at anything."
Despite Panayiotou having a good build-up to Glasgow, Telford is keeping expectations realistic ahead of tonight's marathon.
Panayiotou is seen as a major unknown because of her lack of experience and rapid improvements, but her coach believes this meeting is mainly about getting experience.
"Basically we've just got to be realistic and set her goals that are achievable so she can come home knowing she could actually keep on improving and even make the Olympic team as she keeps going in 2016," Telford said.
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