British record-holding hammer thrower Sophie Hitchon is ready to make her mark at the Commonwealth Games after donning England’s colours.
After being adorned with the nation’s official sportswear - in readiness for the opening ceremony - and proudly flying the St George’s Cross, the Burnley-born athlete is hopeful of recording a podium finish at Glasgow’s Hampden Park later this month.
Hitchon, who turns 23 in a weeks’ time, is part of a 129-strong squad that is brimming with medal prospects such as double Olympic champion Mo Farah, Olympic long jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford, and heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
Just over 12 months ago the former Pendle and Burnley Athletics Club star threw a British record of 72.97m at the European Team Championships in Gateshead, beating her previous best of 71.98m that she set at Olympic Park at the London 2012 Games.
Now she’s eager to impress on her Commonwealth debut where the greatest athletes from Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Caribbean, Oceania and Europe will be in attendance.
“It was an exciting time getting kitted out and really fun,” she said. “I got to do the same for the Olympics in 2012 and it’s always an exciting time to go and pick up your kit. It was a great experience.”
Hitchon, who will compete at the end of the month, added: “It’s similar to the Olympics in that it’s a multi-sport competition - it’s not just athletics. It’s fun to meet new people and experience new sports. I’ve never been to a Commonwealth Games before so I’m looking forward to my first one and representing Team England. It’s a whole new experience for me again.
“The Olympics gave me good experience in that kind of environment. I feel I can take that forward in to the Commonwealth Games. There’s always pressure regardless of which competition I’m going in to. If I can perform the way I know I’m capable of doing I’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile the Olympic finalist, who recorded a 12th place finish, warmed up for the Games with victory at the British Athletics UK Championships in Birmingham.
Hitchon’s winning distance of 65.56m was her lowest of the calendar year to date, but it was enough to earn British champion status as well as qualification for the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, Switzerland, next month.
“I won but it wasn’t a great distance,” she said. “It wasn’t what I was aiming for. But it’s a championships so I just had to go there and do the job.
“I won which was great. I’ve got a lot to work on between now and the Commonwealth Games. I’m confident that my best will come at the competition in a few weeks time.
“In any championships it’s not really about the distance, it’s about the place you finish. All throughout the year we focus on distances but in the championships it’s all about where you can place.
“It would be a great achievement if I could get on the podium at my first Commonwealth Games. I’m currently going in to it ranked second but there’s some really good girls involved. It will be a really good competition. “
She added: “I had to get a qualifying standard throughout the year of 69m and then win the British Championships.
“My performance at the weekend should have confirmed my spot in the European team.
“I think it’s a weekend after the Commonwealths so it’s a quick turnaround. They’re out in Zurich so it should be fun.”