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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 07:22 GMT
Happy Sotherton targets gold
By Matt Majendie
BBC Sport in Melbourne

Kelly Sotherton
If I perform to the best of my ability, I'll get the gold - and the other girls will have to rip it off my neck
Kelly Sotherton
No child taking up athletics for the first time dreams of becoming a heptathlete, according to Kelly Sotherton, the hot favourite to win gold in the multi-discipline event at the Commonwealth Games.

In fact, any romantic notions you may have had about Sotherton taking up the sport as a 12-year-old are immediately crushed by the brutally honest 29-year-old.

She insists she "fell into it by default" and merely "did it because I was OK at it".

"I was 12 years old when I did my first multi-event - a pentathlon at that age," she said, "and I won it so I thought I'd give it a go.

"Likewise I'm sure a young Paula Radcliffe didn't decide 'you know what? I'm going to start running marathons'. I'm sure she'd still far rather run one mile than 26. It just so happens she's bloody good at running 26 miles."

Kelly Sotherton and Jade Johnson
Sotherton insists her spat with Jade Johnson (right) is all in the past
Sotherton refreshingly says what she thinks, which has landed her in trouble in the past, most recently in a very public war of words with England long jumper Jade Johnson.

With her focus now firmly on Melbourne, she refuses to talk about the spat, describing it as a "load of nonsense" and insisting it is "all done and dusted".

The Isle of Wight-born athlete has scrapped plans to double up in Melbourne with the long jump - thus avoiding another head-to-head with Johnson. The heptathlon undoubtedly is effort enough.

Following Margaret Simpson's withdrawal from the Games - the recently pregnant Ghanaian was the only athlete set for the Games to finish ahead of Sotherton in last year's World Championship - the now Birmingham-based competitor is the runaway favourite.

"Sometimes you can force a heptathlon too much," she said, "which is what I did at the worlds. This time I'm going to go out and enjoy it.

If it wasn't important to me I would have gone to the world indoors
Sotherton on the Commonwealth Games
"And I know that if I perform to the best of my ability, I'll get the gold. And the other girls will have to rip it off my neck."

Aside from traffic troubles between her home and her training ground, plus having to practise in dire conditions, her training has gone well.

"It's nice to be in the warmer weather," she admitted. "I'm probably the only heptathlete at these Games who's thrown the discus in the snow in the last few weeks.

"One minute I was wearing two, three jumpers, gloves and a woolly hat. Now I'm almost too warm."

Sotherton has happily fine-tuned her discus and, more importantly, her javelin - the event which cost her a medal at last year's worlds and an event she insists she will never fluff in competition again.

But despite her previous goal, she admits she won't revel in all of the heptathlon events.

"The killer is the 800m," she revealed. "You want to do it but you know it's going to hurt. Actually that's like most of the heptathlon.

"No disrespect to the sprinters but they've got it easy in comparison. They have to run in a straight line from A to B.

"That's not my thing - I guess I like the challenge of the heptathlon. And the advantage I have over those sprinters is that if my track stuff isn't going well in one training session I can, say, head for the high jump... and that eases frustration pretty well."

When asked what winning Commonwealth gold would mean, the punchy Sotherton comes to the fore.

"If it wasn't important to me I would have gone to the world indoors," she added. "It'd mean a lot to win gold - my first title and you always remember your first title.

"Added to that, I'd go to my next event and be introduced as 'Commonwealth Games champion Kelly Sotherton'."

She arrived in Melbourne with an "it could all finish tomorrow" attitude.

And that has something to do with her late arrival as a professional athlete. At the last Commonwealth Games in Manchester - where she finished seventh - she was still working at a bank.

And the Athens Olympics, where she won bronze, was her first really major event.

"I've done the normal life unlike a lot of the top athletes," she said, "and I don't miss it at all, whether it be the nine-to-five lifestyle or going out for a Friday or Saturday night.

"Most people do their jobs to pay their bills, which is what I did. Now I get to travel the world, do what I love and get paid for it. OK, it's hard sometimes and you don't get days off but if it pays off, it's well worth it."





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