Hitchon ready to star on big stage

WHETHER you’re Usain Bolt, Mo Farah or an aspiring athlete desperate to make a name, competing at the Olympic Stadium this summer will be the pinnacle of any sporting career.

Whereas many athletes will have to wait until August to perform, Burnley hammer thrower Sophie Hitchon will be one of the very first to compete in London’s brand new 80,000 capacity arena.

Hitchon will represent Loughborough in the British University Championships in May, where she will be hoping to showcase her talents ahead of the greatest sporting event of all.

And after touring the stadium last year, the former ballet dancer will make her second trip to the venue, ready for a completely different exper-ience.

“It was nice to get a feel for the stadium, but being inside it when it was empty is totally different to how it will be at the Olympics,” Hitchon said.

“It’s a great arena and the fans are really close to the action, so I can only imagine what the atmosphere will be like. That’s the only opportunity I’ve got to compete there before the Games, so it’s very important for me.”

Having only ditched the tutus and leotards in 2007, the Blackburn Harrier’s meteoric rise in the sport is nothing short of a fairytale.

Hitchon’s rapid progress saw her reach the 2011 World Championships in Daegu before smashing her own British senior record earlier this year, with an outstanding 70.40 metres.

And the 20-year-old has set her sights on Helsinki in June for the 2012 European Cham-pionships as her final oppor-tunity to test herself against the very best.

“Hopefully I’ll be there depending on selection,” she said.

“It’s a nice schedule as there will be a couple of low key events before Helsinki. I don’t really know what the other girls will be planning because it is down to what they think is right for them in the build-up to the Olympics, but I imagine the top girls will be there.”

The current world record holder is Betty Heidler from Germany, however Hitchon joins many girls in attempting to make the podium in London this summer.

“The competition is very widespread, girls come from China, Russia and other countries across the world,” said the British number one.

“It will be difficult and it’s all about how our bodies react to different things.”

The balance and poise associated with ballet dancing seems to have aided her development in hammer throwing, and Hitchon insists she is not the only one defying the stereotype associated with females in a perceived mas-culine event.

“The girls are no longer of the big build from Eastern Europe,” she said.

“I used to come up against opponents and think, ‘Oh God’.

“It was very intimidating.

“But I don’t think it’s like that now, a lot of the girls are much more athletic.”

So much has happened in such a short space of time for the Loughborough student, and she accepts that the experience of her rivals may be a disadvantage for her in the build-up to the Games.

She said: “The top girls in the world are aged between 25 and 30.

“They have been there and done it before, whereas for me, it’s a big learning curve. I’m going to make mistakes and it’s how I learn to deal with them and improve for the better.”

Hitchon knows she must maintain a similar level to the other athletes but admits she can only impact her own pre-paration.

“You always try to keep track of what the other athletes are doing, but you cannot let it affect you,” she said.

“You cannot control what they are throwing and I must prepare in my own way.”

When the Olympics do get underway, Hitchon will be among thousands hoping to write a new chapter in their own sporting careers.

But this ex-ballerina from Burnley is hoping to add an extra sparkle to her already fascinating story.

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