Hammer ace Sophie is going for gold at Gold Coast Games
All roads lead to Tokyo 2020 for Sophie Hitchon.
But while she is halfway through the four-year cycle looking ahead to the Olympics, after winning bronze in the hammer at Rio 2016, this year represents the chance to add more medals to her collection.
She is eager to upgrade the bronze she won at the 2015 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when she competes at the start of next week on the Gold Coast in Australia.
And then in August follows the European Athletics Championships in Berlin – before another major event, her wedding in San Jose in September!
The Burnley ace will go into the Commonwealths as the top-ranked hammer thrower, having finished 2017 ninth in the world, finishing seventh at last year’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in London.
She also started the season in style at the Stanford Invitational in California last Friday, winning in a meet record of 71.41m – the seventh-best throw in the world so far this year.
Sophie openly admits the European Championships is the bigger priority, with a tougher field.
However, she goes to Australia hoping to land the gold medal.
Qualifying is on Monday, with the final on Tuesday, and she looked ahead to the Games: “My main aim is the Europeans at the end of the year.
“I’m kind of setting my sights on the Europeans, but we are ready and I still want to do well at the Commonwealth Games.
“For every athlete this year it’s kind of an odd year.
“The more major competitions are the World Championships and Olympics, so we take this year as a down year to build into the next one.
“The long term aim is the World Championships in Doha, which aren’t until October next year, then the year after that it’s the Olympics.
“But I’d love to get another medal. I’d love to do better than last time.”
Four years ago in Glasgow, she finished third, but wasn’t 100%, with an illness which subseqently saw her fail to qualify for the European Championships final in Zurich shortly after.
She looked back on that period: “The Europeans were straight after and I was very ill.
“I seemed fine at the Commonwealth Games but there was something there. I wasn’t 100% in Glasgow. I felt like I could have performed a little bit better.
“I want to do better but with the changes (to her turn and throw), it’s difficult to say.
“Things have been going well so I don’t see why I can’t perform well.
“I’ve said before, weird things can happen. You can get one day and feel great, or you can get up one day and feel like you just can’t throw. Sometimes that happens in life.
“Ultimately it’s about execution and what you come away with is after the fact. I don’t think about it going into it.
“What you come away with you come away with.”
But a Commonwealth Games medal would take pride of place among her others: “I’m proud of any medal performance I get.
“The Commonwealths means as much to me as a European medal will. But the performance will have to be better, because the Europeans is basically the World Championships.”
She added: “No matter what I always put pressure on myself, even competing at Stanford, I still wanted to throw well.
“I’m not going to go into it thinking it’s going to be easy, because no competition is easy, and that’s how people make mistakes by thinking that.
“It doesn’t work like that.
“You’ve got to go into it thinking you’ve got to perform every time you compete.
“That’s my mentality with every competition. I treat every one the same.”
The same mantra applies to every major championship for Sophie – focus on qualifying for the final first and foremost.
But this time there is no qualification round, with a straight final on Tuesday, as there are only 11 entrants in total in the field in Australia.
After the Gold Coast and Berlin, her final match of the year will be her wedding, and she smiled: “It’s an easier year to do it (get married).
“We planned it in September so I can do my season just as normal and concentrate on that.”