Sophie Hitchon returned from San Jose on Tuesday, as she lays the groundwork for what she hopes will be another successful year in 2014.
The 22-year-old Burnley hammer star has been in California for some warm(er) weather sessions with coach Tore Gustafsson, ahead of a year where she will aim to medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, before travelling to the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.
This year saw Sophie win the women’s hammer in July at the European Under 23 Championships in Tampere, Finland, with her final throw of 70.72m, having, the month before, again extended her British record at the European Team Championships in Gateshead - beating the mark she set on the way to qualifying for the Olympic final last summer by almost a metre, as she threw 72.97m.
And while she was devastated after failing to make the final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in August, throwing a best of 68.56m, it all added up to another superb year.
Sophie looked back on a year which saw her overcome some fitness issues to again shine in the international arena: “I think, looking back, I have to be really pleased with my year, because at the end of 2012, I had a back issue which meant I missed a larhe chunk of training - I had a pars fracture in my vertebrae, which is common in athletes, but I was in pain and didn’t know if I would be able to compete.
“But I got it fixed and did everything to get it sorted, and set a target of trying to beat my PB, which I did.
“I was disappointed with Moscow at the time, not making the final, but when I look back, I couldn’t have asked for much more from my year.”
So it is full steam ahead for 2014, although Sophie recently had some disappointing news in that the hammer has again been left out of the Diamond League schedule, meaning she will now find it difficult to compete in the big stadiums before the major championships in the summer.
But Sophie is philosophical about the blow: “It is disappointing - most of the other athletes compete and the series raises profile and money, but you just have to get on with it.
“There’s no point getting worked up about it, you just have to move on.”
The reasoning for the exclusion came from Zurich Diamond League Organiser Patrick Magyar, who suggested the event could damage stadiums with under floor heating, and the need for extremely high cages made the hammer ‘an unfeasible event’.
Sophie admitted: “It’s difficult to believe the reasons.”
She has bigger fish to fry, however, as she looks to her summer goals: “The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are my main aim pretty much, with the Euros following on soon after.
“It will be my first senior Commonwealths after missing Delhi in 2010, and I’m looking forward to it.
“People are excited about it, I’ve done well in championships in Britain, everyone gets behind you and you feel that level of support.
“I’m hoping for a medal, to get on the podium would be a good achievement for my first games.
“And with the Euros in Zurich, it will depend on who is there, but I’ll be looking to make the top eight, I’ll just see how it goes after Glasgow.”