AFTER a year in which she lived out her dreams, Sophie Hitchon is refocussed and ready to take on the world again in 2013.
The 21-year-old British hammer record holder reached the Olympic Final in London, finishing 12th.
But while many athletes experience a post-Games hangover, the former Ivy Bank pupil is itching to get back out into the hammer circle and continue her rise to the top.
Sophie has new goals after the euphoria of London 2012, with a chance to improve on her bronze medal in the European Under 23 Championships two years ago, and a World Championships on the horizon.
Currently ranked 23rd in the world, she hopes to break into the top 10 minimum this year under her new coach Tore Gustafsson - a Swedish three-time Olympic finalist and coach of Koji Murofushi, the men’s World champion and Olympic bronze medalist.
Sophie brought us up to date with things on the back of the Olympics: “It’s definitely calmed down a lot since last summer, I took a bit of a break after the Games, a few weeks off, but then I got back into winter training to prepare for this year.
“I’ve just come back from a training camp in South Africa, so I’m just working hard ahead of a big year.
“I have a couple of championships coming up this month, winter meets in Loughborough and Spain to blow away the cobwebs, and after that, there is the Loughborough International in May.”
After that comes the serious stuff though, with the Euro Under 23s in Tampere, Finland and the Worlds in Moscow: “A lot of athletes have motivational problems after the Olympics, they work so hard for four years and more, and after that, what they’ve been so focussed on, it’s difficult.
“For other sports, the Olympics is all they have to aim for, but for athletes, we have World Championships, European Championships, the Commonwealth Games...
“So even though I did what I wanted to do at the Olympics, by getting to the final and doing really well, I want to do better this year and try and get into the top eight, the top five in the world.
“I have the European Under 23 Championships in July, where I won bronze in 2011, and then the Worlds in Moscow in August, where I’m aiming for the top eight.
“So there’s still a lot of things I’m working towards, and it’s going to be difficult, but I’ve had my break and I’m ready to go.”
She hopes to add improvements under Gustafsson, having enjoyed great success under Derek Evely, winning the World Junior Championships in 2010, bronze at the Euro Under 23s the following year, as well as a 13th-place finish at the Worlds in Daegu.
Then came an 11th-place at the European Championships in Helsinki, and a 12th-place finish at London 2012.
Sophie said: “After the Games Derek moved back to Canada to be with his family, and we could have done it long distance, but we wanted a better situation, as did Derek, who wanted the best for me.
“So we decided to go with Tore, who has coached the World and Olympic champion.
“I’ve had a good conversation with Tore, talking about programmes and working towards getting towards 75m and beyond.
“But he’s thrown the hammer himself in major championships, and three times in the Olympics, which is nice to know, and he’s worked with Koji, so it’s great to be with someone who’s coached the best.”
With UK athletics on a high, Sophie is enjoying the extra attention: “I’ve got more followers on twitter, although I’m not a massive tweeter, and it’s nice to be recognised and interact with the public.
“I’ve done a couple of athletics camps at Loughborough, coaching days and things like that, and everything is going well.
“The whole Olympics was great, but we’ve moved on now and we want to keep British athletics doing well, with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow coming up next year, and the World Championships here in 2017.
“We’ve raised the profile of British athletics, and we want to continue that.”