Sarah Claxton targets the Olympics

THERE is nothing glamorous about the world of athletics, in the eyes of double-Olympian Sarah Claxton.

Former Colchester-based athlete Claxton is targeting a third appearance at the Olympics, in London this summer, but she is having to do it the hard way.

Forget the razzmatazz, and substantial funding, that accompanies many of Great Britain’s top athletes, including the likes of Jessica Ennis, Phillips Idowu and Mo Farah.

Claxton may already be a veteran of two Olympics, achieving the accolade of reaching the 100m hurdles final in Beijing four years ago, but there is no funding, and certainly no warm-weather training camps coming in her direction.

In fact, 32-year-old Claxton has to make ends meet, by working in a day-night shop in Covent Garden, just to pay the rent and put food on the table!

“It’s hard, but I’m just knuckling down,” admitted Claxton, who now lives in Enfield.

“I train six days a week at Lee Valley, with my coach Martey Newman, but I have to juggle my training around work at the shop.

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“I don’t get any funding, so I have to work to pay for all my expenses.

“But I’m quietly confident of achieving the qualifying time, to make the Olympics for a third time.

“I’m very determined, and it would be the icing on the cake to compete at London,” added Claxton.

Specialist sprint hurdler Claxton came up through the youth ranks at Colchester & Tendring AC, where she was also renowned as a proficient long jumper.

In fact, it was as a long jumper that Claxton enjoyed all of her early success, capped by an appearance at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.

But she switched to the hurdles, soon afterwards, and has gone on to record considerable success as one of the country’s top sprint hurdlers.

She competed at the last two Olympics, in Athens and Beijing, in addition to two World Championships in Helsinki and Berlin.

Now Claxton is focusing on achieving the Olympic qualifying time of 12.95secs.

She is closing in on that goal, having clocked 13.25 in Bonneuil, France last month, and then a season’s best of 13.16 in Rehlingen, Germany just a few days later.

“I believe that I am in better shape now, than when I reached the Olympics final four years ago,” enthused Claxton, who was eighth in the Beijing final.

“Competition is a little fiercer now, but I’m quietly confident that I will get the qualifying time.

“Tiffany Porter is the only Briton to have got the qualifying time, and I am now going to race as many races as I can, to bring my time down.

“I certainly believe that I’m still getting quicker.

“You look at athletes like Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie, who achieved most of their success in their mid-30s.

“And the same is the case with a lot of our current-day athletes. I still think I have a long career in front of me.

“Steering clear of injuries is obviously important.

“I have been relatively lucky with injuries, although I did suffer a partial tear of my Achilles tendon last year.

“That affected my performances. I was running injured for most of the season, and I called it a day by June because I couldn’t run on it anymore. I just had to rest it.

“I still get a little niggle, now and then, which certainly doesn’t help with hurdling, which is such an explosive sport,” added Claxton, who has a personal best of 12.81 from four years ago.

Despite her lack of funding, Claxton has never considered hanging up her spikes and walking away from the sport.

She insisted: “I have never thought about giving up athletics. I have always been quietly determined to get the best out of myself.

“And not getting any funding has not put me off. In fact, it means that I don’t have any of the pressure that comes with getting help (from UK Athletics).

“The only pressure is the pressure that I put on myself. Of course it’s not ideal, because I have to train outside work hours.

“For example, I work on Monday mornings and train in the evenings, while on Tuesday and Thursday I train in the mornings and work in the evenings.

“So if I do get to the Olympics, I will have done it my way!” added Claxton.

Sarah Claxton is looking for sponsorship, in her quest to qualify for this summer’s London Olympics. Anyone interested can contact Sarah through carl.marston@archant.co.uk