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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK
Sotherton unfazed by back injury
By Sarah Holt

Kelly Sotherton
Sotherton aims to match her Commonwealth display in Sweden
Commonwealth heptathlon champion Kelly Sotherton expects to bounce back strongly from a back injury at August's European Championships.

Sotherton overhauled her training after discovering a fracture in her spine but says she has already made improvements.

"In hindsight the injury is no bad thing," Sotherton told BBC Sport. "I've had to learn things from scratch.

"My injury means nobody knows what I can do but with fresher legs and brain I'll be an unexpected force."

Sotherton only found out she had been carrying a back injury after winning Commonwealth gold in Melbourne.

The 29-year-old heptathlete resumed training in May and so did not compete at the traditional combined events meeting in Gotzis, won for the fourth time by Olympic and world champion Carolina Kluft.

However, with just five weeks to go until the Europeans start in Gothenburg, Sotherton remains unfazed by her unusual preparations.

"I would normally have done another heptathlon by now so it is a little bit weird," said Sotherton.

"But that just makes me more up for the challenge of competing on Kluft's home turf because it will be a great competition.

The injury won't heal fully but I'm learning how to do things properly and am taking steps forward

Kelly Sotherton

"Something happens during a heptathlon that is totally different to competing in individual events - you get more adrenalin, it's like a different place.

"I scored 6,396 points in March and I can at least match that score in Sweden.

"The injury won't heal fully but I just have to get on with it. I'm learning how to do things properly and I'm taking steps forward, it is genuinely encouraging."

Just as she did at the Worlds last year, Sotherton will double up in Gothenburg by also entering the long jump. Her season's best leap of 6.67m already exceeds the qualifying mark of 6.65m.

Sotherton warms up for her first tilt at the European crown by contesting the long jump, high jump, shot put and 100m hurdles at the Norwich Union trials, held over 15 and 16 July.

"I have to put some events together and I hope to do promisingly well in Manchester," Sotherton said.

"My preparations are going well and it should be a stepping stone to the Europeans.

European, World and Olympic champion Carolina Kluft
Sweden's Kluft is favourite to retain her European crown on home soil

"I'm British number one in the long jump, which sounds good, but it will only be a bit of fun in Gothenburg.

"No long jumper should ever let a heptathlete beat them but a lot of us are jumping well so heptathletes will probably feature strongly in Gothenburg."

Sotherton is also confident the British team will end a busy summer of sport on a high note at the European Championships, which begin on 6 August.

A keen Arsenal fan, Sotherton watched England crash out of the World Cup and then saw domestic hopes fade at Wimbledon but she says the athletes can turn round British fortunes.

She said: "Athletics always gets a bit lost but there is a chance for Great Britain to do something special in Gothenburg.

"It is a blessing in disguise that we have not had the focus but I think we'll surprise some people.

"We have some strong events and if people were more positive about our sport then we would probably be a bit more positive at major championships."

Sotherton claims heptathlon gold
22 Mar 06 |  Commonwealth Games
Injury changes Sotherton's plans
25 Apr 06 |  Athletics
Champion Sotherton eyes new start
23 Mar 06 |  Commonwealth Games


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