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Professional Athlete

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What did you do before you became a professional athlete in 2004?

I was at University in Loughborough, England studying Sport and Exercise Science.

 

 


Being an athlete of your caliber is a huge commitment. What keeps you focused?

Being an elite athlete is a huge commitment and the rest of your life has to fit in and revolve around your athletics. This can be tough but if you want to achieve and get the most out of your talents then that’s what has to be done. Whenever it seems like training is tough then I just keep those goals in mind.

 

In the 2007 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham, you achieved a personal best and national record of 50.02 seconds. This was the 5th fastest indoor 400m time in history! An amazing achievement. What were your feelings when you found out about your timing…Did you feel you could go further than that?

When I saw the time as I crossed the line I was more shocked than anything so really excited. It was always the aim to run that sort of time and faster but I didn't think it would come indoors, I thought I would have to wait till the outdoor season. Its hard to say if I thought I could have run faster. I ran the race out by myself so maybe if I was pushed more, I would have gone faster but also indoor running is hard if it’s a close race so it could have worked against me too. If I run indoors another season I think I would be able to go faster because now my outdoor personal best is much faster than when I ran that time indoors.


How would you encourage young people, particularly girls to stay motivated and continue physical activity, even if they don’t want to become professional athletes?

I would recommend sport to any young girl. Sport makes you bolder, stronger and fills you with energy. The best description I can give is that it ensures you live life in techni-colour. Even if it’s not sport to the level I am doing it, I would recommend it as a fun social activity and a way of staying healthy. A great way to do this is on the Nike BeBo site www.nikehereiam.com ; here you can make friends with like minded girls and find out about sporting activities in your area. I have been participating in sport from quite a young age and I think that I am a more confident person as a result. Sport has given me a much better body image and my self confidence and motivation for life is far greater, I believe, than it would have been if I hadn't done any sport.

 

 

Nike did a survey in different countries regarding women and their perspective upon sports. A key concern from women who didn’t participate in the UK and Ireland was that they would become too muscular or sweat too much. Where do you think this perception comes from and how would you suggest to change it?

I think this perception comes from the fact that sport is still in this day and age, regarded as a male environment and not very feminine which is ridiculous considering the amount of girls and women who not only do sport or exercise on a regular basis, but are doing it as a career. It’s quite a contradiction really because girls in the survey who don’t do sport, said it was because muscularity and sweat put them off, while the majority of girls who actually do play sports said that it made them feel more sexy, confident and gave them a better self image.

 

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One of the ways to change opinions would be to have more female sporting role models in the media to show that we are not masculine, overly muscle bound people and that we are in fact toned, healthy, confident and successful women. If girls saw this more predominantly in the media they would then hopefully strive to be like us and take up sport.
You're preparing to take part in the Olympics. What does your personal training and diet schedule look like?

My training schedule is like it always is. I am not training any differently to other years. I do 3 track sessions a week, two weight sessions, 2 grass sessions and a circuit session. My diet is a pretty healthy diet, with lots of carbohydreates and protein for energy and recovery.

Having spoken to women who played in professional team sports, some of the athletes have to work full time in order to be able to afford being professional athletes. Do you think that the work that Womensportreport.com, Nike and other female oriented sports organizations are doing will make a difference in that regard and change perceptions towards women in sport?


I think the more these kind of organisations do to highlight women in sport, the more likely women are to be equal to their male counterparts and the more they will be able to finance their lives through sport and not have to supplement this with another job. This will in turn make women’s sport of greater quality because the women will be able to dedicate all of their time to training. I am very lucky that my sport is my full time job but I know many women don't have this luxury, especially in less high profile sports, which is a shame. It's always nice to be the first one to break a time barrier because no one can take that away from you. The response from the team was great, everyone congratulated me on the time but because we were a team and our time was a British record, we were all part of that and to do that with the other girls was great.

Do you think the national media doesn’t pay enough attention to sports women and have you any ideas on how that could be changed?
I don't think female sport is very high profile compared to men’s. In athletics we are more high profile because we run in the same meets as the men and are seen as more on a par. The same applies to tennis. Its a bit of a vicious cycle really because, the high profile sports like football and rugby pull in huge crowds so people pump out money and sponsorship into those sports. Because of this, other sports don't get a look in, people don't see them and so they have no chance of increasing their profile. It's ironic really because the England women’s and league football and rugby teams generally do better than the men’s! It’s going to be very hard to change the perception but I think if we get more female sports personalities into the spotlight, people will get to know them and want to watch what they are doing.

Where do you see yourself in 2012 after the London Olympics?
Its hard to know what I will be doing after 2012. I will probably still be competing for a year or so, it depends on how my career is going and how well I am running. Once I retire, I will hope to be involved in the sport still somehow, but in what capacity I am not sure.


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If you wouldn't have become a hurdler/pro sprinter, is there any other dream you had when you were younger?

I did Sports Science at University and have also studied sports rehabilitation so if I wasn't running for a living I would still be involved in sport in some form but more behind the scenes.

When you anchored the British 4x400m team to a bronze medal you became the first female UK runner to break 49 seconds for a 400 metre relay leg. What response did you receive from your team and UK athletics?

To run that time in the relay was amazing, especially because we also won a bronze medal and broke the British record as a team.

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