Former heptathlete Kelly Sotherton considered switch to cycling for London 2012

Olympic medallist impressed with times on Wattbike, but will now focus on 400 metres instead

by Simon_MacMichael   February 5, 2011  

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Former heptathlete Kelly Sotherton has disclosed that she considered switching to cycling in an effort to secure a place in the Great Britain team for next year’s Olympic Games in London and emulate Rebecca Romero as a medallist in two separate sports.

The 34-year-old from the Isle of Wight, who won bronze in the heptathlon at Athens seven years ago, retired from the event last autumn since injuries to her back and foot were preventing here from performing to the best of her ability in the multi-discipline track and field event.

Thoughts of switching to cycling came about after she put in some strong times on a static Wattbike, reports The Mirror, but in the end she decided to remain within athletics and instead target qualification for the 400 metres.

“It was either a case of ­quitting the sport or doing something different – so I chose the 400m,” Sotherton told the Mirror.

“I didn’t consider it at first, but I ran a decent relay split in Beijing and I thought it was the best option.

“It’s a different challenge and it has rejuvenated my career in the run-up to London 2012 because I’ve had to get my confidence back and I’ve had to learn to train again because I’ve not even trained for two years.

“I cycle and I did some gold standard bike tests, which people got very excited about – even though I’ve never even been in a velodrome,” she revealed.

“I was deadly serious,” she added. “It wasn’t a whim or anything. It was a ­realistic option if I wanted to compete in an Olympic sport.
“But,” she continued, “athletics is in my blood, it’s in my soul, and I wanted to find something else in my chosen sport that I was good at.

“It’s hard to break into the 400 metres, and if I make the podium in London it would definitely be the greatest achievement of my career – but I dare not think that far ahead,” she concluded.

It isn’t clear whether Sotherton saw her potential as lying in sprint or endurance events, but with only one place per country available for each event in the individual track cycling programme at London 2012, trying to break into the Team GB set-up at this stage would have been a tall order.

Romero remains the only woman, and one of only three athletes worldwide, to have ever won summer Olympic medals in two separate sports.

The 31-year-old from South West London won silver in the quadruple sculls at Athens, but switched to cycling to focus on individual rather than team events, and beat fellow Briton Wendy Houvenaghel to gold in the individual pursuit – an event now axed from the Olympic programme – at Beijing.

Sarah Storey, who is looking to secure a place in the team pursuit at London 2012, is another British cyclist to have enjoyed success in two separate sports, having won 16 Paralympic medals, five of them gold, in the swimming pool before switching to cycling and winning two gold Paralympic medals in the velodrome at Beijing.