Olympic selection still hasn’t sunk in for Burnley’s Sophie

OLYMPIC DREAM: Sophie Hitchon
OLYMPIC DREAM: Sophie Hitchon

SOPHIE Hitchon admits the realisation she is going to the Olympics is still sinking in.

The 20-year-old won the women’s hammer at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium on Saturday to claim the UK title for the second-successive year.

And with the event doubling up as the Olympic trials this year, Hitchon’s victory - coupled with her achieving the A standard qualifying throw in April - means she is automatically selected for the London Games.

It’s something of a whirlwind time for the former Ivy Bank pupil, who is preparing for this weekend’s European Championships in Helsinki, and I spoke to her as she waited to board her flight at Heathrow: “It’s a bit surreal at the moment, people keep asking me how it feels, and it really hasn’t sunk in just yet - and there isn’t time for it to at the moment as I have another big competition this weekend.

“I think when the team selection comes through officially and we get kitted out, then it will seem more real!”

It is a case of so far, so good this year, as Sophie continually ticks off her targets.

The aim was to hit the A standard of 71.50m as early as possible this season, and, while breaking the UK record three times this year, she passed that mark in California with an effort of 71.61m in April.

That all but guaranteed her place at London, which was rubber-stamped by her win on Saturday, and she said: “The plan was always to go out in April and relieve the pressure by getting the A standard, then I could relax and start building up for the Euros and London.

“It’s about competing now, getting experience, doing as well as I can and hopefully peaking in London.

“Everything is going to plan so far, and hopefully it will continue to over the next few weeks.”

The Euros are far from a side issue, however, with London in mind, as Sophie explained: “This is one of the biggest competitions of my life, and being able to go to Helsinki and get the experience of another top international event is fantastic.

“All the top girls will be there that will be at the Olympics, bar the Americans, Canadians and Chinese, and hopefully I can get a good throw in my first three, qualify for the final and see how it goes from there.”

Sophie is rapidly building her major competition experience, having finished 13th in qualifying in the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea last year as she stepped up from the junior ranks, where she has previously won gold at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games Pune, India, bronze at the 2009 European Junior Championships in Novi Sad, Serbia, gold at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada, and bronze last year at the European Under 23 Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

And being part of the senior GB squad is a big thrill: “It’s nice to be part of the British team, everyone gets on really well, and we’re all really looking forward to competing this weekend, and then in London.”

Sophie has been consistently throwing in the region of 70m all year, and that is again the goal in the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki: “It was a little bit disappointing to throw under 70m with 69.79m last weekend, but if I can produce similar this weekend, that should get me into the final, which is the goal.”

From Helsinki, a training camp in Portugal follows, before the greatest show on earth - the Olympics, with qualifying on Wednesday, August 8th, and the final two days later.

Sophie competes in qualifying in Helsinki on Friday, with the final on Sunday.

There willl be coverage on the BBC and Eurosport of the European Championships all weekend.