British record-holder Sophie Hitchon is determined to break down the barriers that continue to see the hammer throw absent from the Diamond League fixtures, she tells Eilish McColgan
My parents were heavily involved in athletics when I was growing up. I was always taken along to watch different competitions, so when I was around 14 years old, I started taking part instead. My granddad was a field official – he thought I would be good at it, so I gave it a go.
I started working with my coach, Tore Gustafsson, in April 2013. He lives in California so, although we’ve now been working together for almost three years, I don’t get to see him all the time. I usually travel to the USA for training camps throughout the winter and he comes overseas to watch the majority of my summer competitions. We don’t really have a training group as such, but he does help out a few other throwers. I usually train by myself, but it works well.
My coach always tells me to have a short memory. If you don’t do as well as you hoped in a competition, you have to learn to forget about it and move on. Similarly, if you do really well in a competition, it’s still time to start refocusing on the next.
I split my time between my full-time base in Loughborough and California. I’ve lived away from home for quite a long time now and so it’s become normal not to see my family and friends very often. With spending so much time in the USA, I’ve been very fortunate to make some really good friends out there.
Throwing all the time can be very monotonous. This is especially true when I am struggling to find the feeling within the throw, but every single session I do has a throwing component. It can be pretty hard at times but that’s the whole point of the training session: to be consistent, throwing over and over again and feeling the same on every throw.
There aren’t many differences between my summer and winter training. However, the volume of throwing does get cut throughout the summer and I will use mostly competition weight in the summer. Weightlifting gets a bit quicker too. For example in the winter, we will do full squats but in season it will be reduced to a box squat.
Coming fourth in the World Championships last year has been my biggest achievement to date. Winning the World Junior Championships back in 2012 was pretty special too. Obviously there are a few things I would have done differently throughout the years but I don’t have any regrets.
Competing in the London Olympic Stadium was unbelievable. All athletes dream of competing in the Olympics and to have the games in the UK was amazing. The crowd was so supportive and helped me to a PB and British record. It’s a firm favourite in my athletic experiences so far.
Taking part at the Commonwealth Youth Games was a vital stepping stone for me. Even though I came away with the bronze, I was deeply disappointed with it. I am very critical of all my performances but I really don’t feel I competed to my best abilities at that particular championships.
Before major championships, I plan everything the evening before. My ritual entails me making a schedule of exactly what I will do before competing. Things sometimes change depending on what time of the day my event is being held, but I always try to eat at least three hours before warming up.
Posing naked for a women’s magazine was daunting. When I got asked to do it, it took me a while to agree. It wasn’t just about promoting a healthy body image; I wanted to promote women’s hammer in general. I feel it’s an event that is always pushed to the side or stereotyped in such a negative way – I want to really try and change that opinion.
My goals for 2016 are pretty simple – to improve. I want to continue be better than last year, be more consistent and more confident within my own abilities – not only in competitions but in training as well.
TYPICAL TRAINING WEEK
Friday AM: Warm up, specific exercises, drills, throws x 10-15, more specific exercises. PM: Warm up, specific exercises, drills, throws x 10-15, weightlifting: back squats 4×4, bunny jump 4×4
Saturday AM: Warm up,specific exercises, drills, throws x 10-15, more specific exercises
Monday AM: Warm up, specific exercises, drills, throws x 10-15 (weight depending on the cycle – currently 5kg), jumps, plate throws. PM: Warm up, specific exercises, drills, throws x 10-15 weightlifting: cleans 5×1, snatch pulls 3×3, jerk 3×4
Tuesday AM: Warm up, specific exercises, drills, throws x 10-15, more specific exercises. PM: Warm up, specific exercises, drills, throws x 10-15, weightlifting: back squats 4×4, bunny jump 4×4
Thursday AM: Warm up, specific exercises, drills, throws x 10-15, more specific exercises. PM: Warm up, specific exercises, drills, throws x 10-15, weightlifting: cleans 5×1, snatch pulls 3×3, jerk 3×4
Weight of the hammer, specific exercises and weightlifting routine change within each cycle, which is typically a four-week period.
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes