Sotherton eyes 400m after injuries end heptathlon hopes
Sotherton has missed most of the last two years due to injury
By Matt Slater
Kelly Sotherton is quitting heptathlon to concentrate on competing at London 2012 as a 400m runner.
A medal-winning heptathlete at the 2004 Olympics and 2007 World Championships, Sotherton has been forced to quit the event after a series of injuries.
The 33-year-old has just returned to training after missing most of the last two years with heel and back injuries.
"Never say never but my body isn't going to be able cope with the stresses of a heptathlon," said Sotherton.
"In my heart I'll always be a heptathlete and I'll always think there's a chance that maybe I could do one again.
I'm looking forward to the challenge of qualifying for what should be a superb (400m relay) team in 2012
"Realistically it would be like playing Russian roulette with my career and I don't want another 12 to 18 months watching other people being successful while I sit thinking I should be out there competing."
News of Sotherton's reluctant decision to bow out of the gruelling multi-discipline challenge emerged on Monday when UK Athletics announced its list of National Lottery-funded athletes for next season.
Having been on full funding since her bronze medal-winning performance at the Athens Olympics, Sotherton was listed among a group of nine athletes in the "podium relay" category.
This group still gets full medical and training support from the national governing body but receives far smaller personal awards.
For Sotherton this entails a 50% pay cut, although her years at the top mean she remains a favourite with event organisers and sponsors.
And the fierce competitor is not about to give up on her Olympic ambitions just yet.
As well as finishing fourth in the heptathlon at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the Birmingham-based athlete also claimed a fifth-placed finish in the women's 4x400m relay.
Her impressive display in the event was something of a surprise but the clues were there for those who had been paying attention in 2008 when she ran a 52.47 indoors, the fastest time by a British female that year.
Modestly claiming to be "not a bad 400m runner for a heptathlete", Sotherton is now focused on breaking her way into Team GB's relay squad for next year's World Championships in South Korea and the London Olympics a year after.
The move to the one-lap sprint has been planned by her coach Aston Moore and approved by Great Britain's head coach Charles van Commenee, the man who infamously criticised Sotherton for settling for bronze in Athens.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge of qualifying for what should be a superb team in 2012," said Sotherton, who also won heptathlon gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
"If everybody is fit we've got Christine Ohuruogu, Nicola Sanders, Perri Shakes-Drayton, Marilyn Okoro and Lee McConnell, so it's not going to be easy.
"But I'm a hungry competitor and I've been part of it before so there's no reason why I can't be a part of it again, and even perhaps in the individual event too."
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