- Kelly Sotherton's Olympic column
'Some people are better off without funding'Kelly Sotherton October 28, 2011
The last few weeks have been a nightmare - I've known for a while that I was going to be going back to the heptathlon, but it has been really hard having to keep my mouth shut and not tell anyone. A few people knew and it's been quite difficult to keep that sort of thing a secret from other athletes where I train suddenly started seeing that I am practicing shot put again but I just hadn't found the right time to make it official.
Before I made the announcement I had to go through a full medical with a a sports physician in Holland to make sure my body was up to the task. Having quit the heptathlon because of injury problems, I needed the doctor to tell me I was capable of completing a heptathlon. I was put through various examinations and tests and an MRI scan & X-ray, with very positive results. My back had improved by 50 per cent. It is still a risk and I am going to have to be smart about how I approach the event, but I have been given the green light and I am going to give it everything.
I've got nothing to lose - it will be one last push with all my efforts geared towards being in the Olympic Stadium in nine months' time. It wasn't a difficult decision - I didn't particularly enjoy the 400m and struggled with the training. Having gone from focusing on multiple events to just one, I found the training quite monotonous so struggled to motivate myself like I had done previously.
Since I made the decision to return to the heptathlon I've been like a kid at Christmas - I'm really excited and raring to go. But I can't get carried away - I've got to get through the next six months in one piece and then make sure I meet the qualification standard London 2012. I don't think it would have been such a big deal if I hadn't just had my funding cut. I firmly believe things happen for a reason, but the two things aren't related. I had already decided to turn back to the heptathlon regardless of whether I got funding or not.
It wasn't a great shock. I knew I wasn't going to get on the relay podium funding, but I had spoken to UKA head coach Charles van Commenee and told him about my decision to switch to heptathlon. As my former coach, part of me was hoping he might think, 'well Kelly has a good chance of qualifying for London, let's give her some funding'. But it wasn't to be and I've been overwhelmed by the support I've had over the last few days - I've had hundreds of messages on Twitter from people - knowing I have so many people behind me makes me more determined to achieve my goal. Paula Radcliffe has offered her support and spread the word via Twitter - I guess she and I are in a similar position chasing one last chance to fulfil our Olympic dream.
The Olympic qualifying standard is 6150 points - my personal best is 6547 so all things being well I'm confident I can achieve this, but I still have to get there and complete all seven events, and I need to make sure I qualify with plenty to spare. Jessica Ennis is virtually guaranteed her place, so I will be chasing for one of two remaining spots in the British team. There are a couple of talented heptathletes coming though, and if they achieve the qualifying mark as well, I need to make sure I leave nothing to chance.
My decision to focus on the heptathlon doesn't stop me going for a place in the 4x400m relay team. I competed in the relay in Beijing and ran a good split. Just because I am concentrating on the heptathlon doesn't mean I won't run the odd 400m race next year to put my hat in the ring for a relay spot. I've got nothing to lose, and there's a long way to go until London and who knows what might happen?
Andy Turner is someone who I can look to as an example. Having had his funding cut a few years ago, Andy's arguably become a better athlete picking up three major medals since - gold at the Europeans and Commonwealths last year and bronze at the Worlds in the summer. It goes to show that some people are better off without funding - I'm not saying I have a point to prove but I have to look at the positives - I don't have any expectations and targets to fulfil, I can just concentrate on achieving my Olympic dream.
Kelly is an ambassador for sports performance brand, ASICS.
Kelly Sotherton is a GB Olympic medalist