Morgan Lake, Carina Horn and Kimberly Williams share stories about who has inspired them

Some of the world’s leading female track and field athletes have celebrated the inspiring women who have helped in supporting their climb to the top of athletics to mark International Women’s Day.

Celebrated on an annual basis to mark the contribution of social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, International Women’s Day is also an all-important milestone on the countdown to this summer’s inaugural Athletics World Cup in London.

Set to take place on July 14-15, and in partnership with the Mayor of London’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign – which commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act which gave some women the vote for the very first time – the Athletics World Cup will see each of the eight teams select a female captain to lead their nation.

“When it comes to being equitable around gender I firmly believe that athletics is one of, if not the, leading sport in the world,” said major events director for British Athletics, Cherry Alexander.

“The sport has also championed women in leadership roles in governance and sports administration, and the Women In World Athletics (WIWA) project launched by UKA in the build up to London 2017 has seen dozens of women from across the world supported in development towards leadership positions.

“From a British perspective we have seen the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Hannah Cockroft and Paula Radcliffe quite rightly lauded in years gone by for their achievements in the sport as much as their male counterparts, and we hope that the decision to select all-female team captains at the Athletics World Cup can serve as a continued celebration of female role-models in sport.”

Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s leading female high jumper, 20-year-old Morgan Lake, said: “International Women’s Day is important especially in sport because it is one of those routes that people may not say women usually go into and it’s really important to have those strong women and figures to look up to.

“Being a heptathlete I was really inspired by Kelly Sotherton and then Jess Ennis-Hill, especially after her success in 2012. Watching them as a young British athlete just inspires you so much to see them doing an amazing job; there was also Carolina Kluft, the Swedish heptathlete, who had a big impact on me.”

South Africa’s 60m and 100m record-holder, Carina Horn, identified her mother as a key female figure in her life. “My mum has definitely inspired me, because of her I’m where I am today,” she said. “She has had such an impact on my life and always motivated me, and it’s because of her that I can say I am an athlete.”

Adding her thoughts on female captains at the Athletics World Cup, Horn said: “It means a lot that women will be the captains of the Athletics World Cup and be able to walk into the London Stadium leading their country out because the eyes of the world will be watching; it’s always good to celebrate women, and I think we deserve a day to recognise the contributions that women have made to society.

“There is no greater feeling than to represent your country, but to be able to lead them is another honour completely.”

Reigning Commonwealth Games champion, Kimberly Williams of Jamaica, pointed to Serena and Venus Williams as huge influences on her development, saying: “I remember when I was younger I wanted to be a tennis player. I didn’t know much about track and field because it wasn’t that big in Jamaica at that time so at that time, Serena and Venus Williams were coming up through the ranks and I thought ‘well, my name is Williams, perhaps I could be the next Williams sister’.

“That didn’t work out as I wasn’t any good at tennis, but then I was watching the Olympics in 2008 and I saw some girls doing the triple jump and I thought that looked fun to try.

“Now I’m fortunate enough to be on this level and I’m able to help young girls to realise their potential and to help motivate them. Sometimes if your training isn’t going to plan it’s easy to lose faith but they need to understand everything takes time, so I hope I can continue to be a good example for young girls.

“It’s a huge thing for all women to be named as captains for the Athletics World Cup because women once again can be showcased at the very top of the sport.”