An email conversation with Kelly Sotherton
'People underestimate me. I've performed well when it matters'
Monday 21 July 2008
Your start to the summer season was delayed by the problem you suffered at a training camp at Formia in Italy – temporary kidney failure. How scary was that, and are you fully recovered? It was quite scary, because I didn't know how serious it was at the time. I still don't know how it happened and why it happened, and I don't know if it'll ever come back, so I have to be cautious. But at one stage I thought the doctors might tell me I would have to take a month off and I was like: "Oh my God, that's the whole Olympics gone." I was lying there with all the intravenous drip and stuff. But the next day I was so much better. And I kind of defied what the kidney specialist said. He said: "I want you to go lightly when you get back into your training," but I went back into my training probably quicker than I should have done. That's me: I push the envelope all the time. I had a week off and then a week where I was I doing slightly less training than normal and then I built it up. And fortunately I've recovered very well. I think I must have been ill for a long time before it hit me. Now I feel so much better in myself, but I was tired for a long time. That was my only symptom: fatigue. I just thought it was due to the training, because I was training hard.
The javelin is always described as your Achilles' heel. You threw only 31.90m at the World Championships in Osaka last summer, when you took the heptathlon bronze behind Carolina Kluft of Sweden and Lyudmila Blonska of Ukraine. Was it thus a big decision to put yourself on the line against Goldie Sayers, who is the British javelin record holder, at the Olympic trials in Birmingham last weekend? [Sayers won with 62.62m; Sotherton threw 34.31m] No, because I've got to be able to throw in a stadium full of people and put myself under pressure. I threw the javelin in the trials before the Athens Olympics in 2004, so I'm not afraid to put myself on the line. I never, ever have been. But I've got to be able to throw something kind of decent when it comes to this year's Olympics in Beijing. If I throw 36m to 38m there it will still give me 100 points more in a heptathlon than I have been getting from the javelin. It might not be as good as the rest of the field, but it would still be 100 points gained. That's what people have got to see – not that it's only five more metres. If I didn't change anything else from Osaka and added only those five more metres in the javelin that would probably put me No 1 in the world. That's what I am aiming to be.
Going into the World Championships in Osaka you were ranked 12th in the world and few people were pinning medal hopes on you – despite your record at the time of having taken four medals from six international championships. You have now taken six from eight (having added world championship bronze and world indoor silver), but do you feel you are still being looked upon as an outsider for Beijing, even though Kluft has decided to switch to the long jump and Jessica Ennis, who finished fourth in Osaka, is injured? Yeah, I think I am kind of an oversight again, but that's cool with me. I went to Osaka as an underdog last year and came back with a medal. People just underestimate me. I've performed well when it matters. People should look at my record. I've won three medals out of three in the last two years – maybe not the gold, but I've still performed. I'd rather be the underdog going into Beijing, and I will be because I haven't done a heptathlon to get myself on to the world rankings this year. People are just going to see what I've done in individual events and put two and two together and come up with five – "Ah, she's not going to come back with a medal, etc, etc." But I know what I can do. And my coaches do. And if you're a true athletics fan, you'll know.
In Osaka you were forthright in your criticism of Lyudmila Blonska, given that she is a reinstated doping offender. How would you feel if you lost to her in Beijing? Hopefully that won't happen. I've trained so hard this year to make sure that does not happen. If she does beat me I'll be upset. What disappointed me most of all in Osaka was that if Blonska had been given the kind of ban she should have been given then Jessica would have won a medal as well. We would have had two Brits up on the podium. But I can't allow myself to get distracted, thinking about Blonska and what she has done. I've got to concentrate on getting myself ready for Beijing.
Kluft has monopolised the heptathlon since 2002 but says she wants "a fresh challenge" in the long jump. Is there a part of you that still cannot believe she will be missing from the heptathlon in Beijing? I know that she won't be there in the heptathlon, but there is a small part of me that wonders: "Will she turn up, just for the sheer hell of it?" But I have spoken to her, when I was in Italy, and I didn't see her doing any heptathlon training there. She doesn't need to play mind games with us. She's such a great athlete and she's too nice to do that. But my coach, Aston Moore, still thinks that she'll be there. He says: "Until I don't see her on the start line, I'm not going to believe it." So there is a small percentage of me that thinks: "Will she just rock up and challenge herself?" She's been so good for the heptathlon and she's so down to earth and normal. That's what makes her so special. She doesn't hype herself up. She says it how it is. She says what she feels, and that's how it should be. She has no airs and graces. She's polite and she's friendly, and she's such a great competitor – she's an animal. That's what I think makes her one of the greatest female athletes of all time.
Kelly Sotherton's Olympic preparation has included specialist vision training as part of the Johnson & Johnson AchieveVision Programme. For details of that and of Johnson and Johnson Vision Care visit: www.acuvue.co.uk
*Name: Kelly Jade Sotherton
*Born: Newport, Isle of Wight
*Background: Represented the Isle of Wight at hockey and netball; also won a medal in the Isle of Wight swimming championships. Now lives and trains in Birmingham, a member of Birchfield Harriers. Before becoming a full-time athlete in 2003 worked as a debt collector for HSBC Bank
*Heptathlon: Will compete for Great Britain in Olympic Games in Beijing on 15-16 August. Has won Olympic bronze, Athens 2004; Commonwealth gold, Melbourne 2006; World Championship bronze, Osaka 2007
*Pentathlon (indoors): European indoor silver 2005; European indoor silver 2007; World indoor silver 2008
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