Heptathlete Kelly Sotherton believes it is now or never if she is ever going to win an Olympic gold medal. The 31-year-old Birchfield Harrier heads to Beijing as one of the favourites for the gold after the withdrawals of reigning champion Carolina Kluft, who has dominated the discipline in recent years, and British rival Jessica Ennis, but Sotherton said she is a strong contender regardless of who is competing.
After recovering from a serious kidney condition, Sotherton says she is in the best shape of her career and is hungrier than ever to step onto the top step of the podium.
“This will definitely be my best chance yet to win gold,” she said. “It is in the middle of my career and I don’t think I will ever be in better shape than I am now. I think I am at the pinnacle of my physical fitness. I feel that if I can’t do it now I never will.
“I am aiming for gold but I might only win a silver medal. If I do it will not be a disappointment because it will be my second Olympic medal and not many athletes can say they have two. I am quite confident that if everything goes to plan then there is a great opportunity for me to get that gold.
“Whether Carolina and Jessica were there it wouldn’t matter because my attitude would be the same. I want to win a gold medal whether they were there or not. It is probably even tougher that they aren’t there because it will be wide open.
“There is always one person who comes out and scores fantastically to snatch a medal, because that is what I did in Athens.”
Sotherton has always carried a considerable amount of pressure on her broad shoulders as one of Britain’s best prospects for a gold medal in athletics and that pressure will be even more intense with Kluft deciding to concentrate on the long jump.
However, Sotherton is far too experienced to let that phase her and says she has the mental strength to deal with any situation.
“Everyone says how I am very good at dealing with pressure,” she said.
“I have had a few scenarios in the long jump at world level where I have been able to pull out not just a jump but a good jump at my third attempt. If I have a poor javelin I can come out and run a great 800m.
“I am very lucky that I can cope with a lot of things mentally and I can deal with the pressure. I don’t know how I do it but I can.”
To support her claim she has mastered the physiological aspects of her event, Sotherton says she is finally starting to master her Achilles heel event, the javelin.
Poor performances in the discipline have cost her gold medals and world titles in the past but Sotherton is confident she will show an improvement in Beijing.
“I was poor with the javelin for two years and I became negative about it,” she said.
“Now I am more positive about the event and I go into like I want to throw the javelin, not like I have to. I want to. I know realistically I am not going to throw 50m in the javelin, but I know I can throw 40m.
That is all I need because that will give me another 180-200 points more than I got at the World Championships in Osaka. If nothing else changes apart from that I would be scoring 600-700 points. That would probably be enough to win the Olympics.”