The five-time world T12 sprint medallist is encouraged by her season start after injury struggles and a loss of funding in 2015
Libby Clegg says she is feeling confident after she bounced back from a tough 2015 to record one of her quickest ever times in Leicester last weekend (May 14).
The five-time world T12 sprint medallist was forced to withdraw through injury during the IPC World Championships in Doha last October and was later dropped from British Athletics’ World Class Performance Programme for 2015-16.
But a guide runner switch and support from sponsors including Eukanuba and Asics together with a strong start to the season has left the visually-impaired sprinter feeling optimistic in Paralympic year.
“I feel really confident with where I’m at,” she says. “I ran my third fastest 200m ever (25.24) at a track in Leicester at the weekend and the previous two times that I have run quicker have been in the Olympic Stadium so I’m very happy.”
Clegg ended her partnership with guide runner Mikail Huggins last November and started working with GB international and 20.22 200m man Chris Clarke in January.
“With the loss of my funding as well at the same time, I just felt it was time for a change,” says the Scottish athlete. “It was a difficult decision to make but I do feel like it was the right one.”
“With the loss of my funding as well at the same time, I just felt it was time for a change”
On Clarke’s progress as a guide runner, Clegg adds: “He has done really well. He does look like he is just jogging next to me though!
“It’s the little things that you don’t necessarily think of that are quite difficult to learn how to do, such as to talk when you run. Obviously Chris is trying to speak to me while I’m racing, which isn’t normal for able-bodied athletes. That has taken a bit of getting used to. It’s a learning process.”
Coached for just over a year by Joe McDonnell, who also works with IPC world medallists Sophie Hahn and Shaun Burrows, Clegg has also been making changes to her training programme following her injury struggles.
“My ankle injury is going to be something that I’m going to have to probably manage for the rest of my career, it’s not just going to go away. It’s just one of those things. I’ve been doing this for quite a long time now so it’s no surprise my body is falling apart a little bit!” says the 26-year-old, who made her international debut at the Assen IPC Athletics World Championships 10 years ago.
“Over the winter I’ve been strengthening my ankles up and managing what I do on the track, so not necessarily wearing my running spikes in training for a lot of sessions and that kind of thing. Just trying to be sensible really.
“It’s just been about moving my sessions around and being more flexible,” says the Commonwealth champion.
“Touch wood, this is normally the time of year that I get injured but I’m feeling really good at the moment.”
“I know that I am in the best shape I have been in, probably in my whole career”
Speaking with AW prior to the GB team announcement for June’s IPC Athletics European Championships, Clegg had said she would be keen to compete at the event in Italy, with the double 2012 European gold medallist having been unable to defend those titles in Swansea in 2014 because of illness. Clegg, who is a two-time Paralympic T12 100m silver medallist, had hoped to use the European event as a marker ahead of Rio, but having missed out on selection, her focus will remain on the Games.
“Looking to Rio I want to be on the podium,” she says. “The weekend shows that I am in PB shape, I just need to get a bit more race fit.
“I know that I am in the best shape I have been in, probably in my whole career. I’m feeling stronger than I’ve ever been, I’m more powerful than I’ve ever been.”
» Libby Clegg is Eukanuba’s 2016 ambassador, working closely with the premium pet food brand and her guide dog Hatti to educate owners on the impact of pet nutrition