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Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Thursday, 17 January 2008

Sotherton's hunt for Olympic gold

By Phil Jones
BBC Sport in Potchefstroom, South Africa

Kelly Sotherton
Sotherton won the heptathlon gold at the 2006 Commonwealths
Kelly Sotherton is Britain's delivery girl. Medals are her stock in trade.

At 31, some athletes have passed their peak and are thinking of a future beyond the track or field. Not Sotherton.

The 2012 Olympics in London are calling for the Commonwealth heptathlon champion. That means two more Olympic Games before she bows out. Two more attempts to 'seven-up' the opposition and deliver her country yet more hardware.

"I'm getting better with age," declared Sotherton, "but then I was a late starter." She made her international debut at the age of 25.

"I've got more to come in all seven events and know I've not yet reached my best, "she added. "I'm learning all the time and getting wiser with age.

"I'm surrounded by a great team of people and year-by-year I discover little things that can make a difference.

Lyudmila Blonska, Carolina Kluft, Kelly Sotherton
Sotherton plans to improve on last year's World Championship bronze

"I don't want to be strapped up and injured arriving at championships, so I've had to get a better understanding when not to push too hard at certain times so I'll be in the right shape when it comes to major events.

"In seven months I'll be finishing the 800m on day two of the heptathlon in Beijing and hopefully taking the gold."

Sotherton exudes confidence. Here in the UK Athletics team hotel in Potchefstroom, South Africa, she is relaxed and yet supremely focused on the athletic challenges ahead.

Talk of gold isn't thrown out flippantly.

Poor javelin throws and Sweden's Carolina Kluft, not necessarily in that order, have thwarted Sotherton's golden ambitions in the past at European and global championships.

But the Olympics bronze medallist from Athens four years ago insists her javelin distances will improve, while rumours remain about Kluft's possible non-participation in the Beijing heptathlon.


In both cases, seeing is believing. However, with Sotherton in such determined mood, don't put the former past her.

And with Kluft being such a free spirit, don't put the latter past her.

Bear in mind, however, that Kluft positively bristled with indignation at last year's World Championships when questions about the Osaka heptathlon being her last surfaced.

And yet the notion of her only competing in the long jump in Beijing refuses to die.

Sotherton said: "If I do win Olympic gold in Beijing I'd like to buy a house in South Africa. I love it here."

Sotherton, who has recovered from an injury to her big toe joint that prevented her running for six weeks, will face Kluft in a three-event head-to-head at the Norwich Union Grand Prix in Birmingham next month, before bidding for pentathlon gold at the indoor world championships in Valencia, Spain, in March.

see also
Training in a winter wonderland
16 Jan 08 |  Athletics
GB athletes in SA
16 Jan 08 |  Athletics
Injury wrecks Turner medal hopes
16 Jan 08 |  Athletics
Team GB for Beijing
29 Nov 07 |  Team GB
Athletics on the BBC
05 Nov 07 |  Athletics

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