Saturday Spotlight: Modest Ohuruogu isn't finished after claiming second world title (From The Northern Echo)
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Saturday Spotlight: Modest Ohuruogu isn't finished after claiming second world title
Great Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu returns to the North-East today, where she will take part in the Great North City Games before starting the Great North Run tomorrow. Sports Writer Steph Clark caught up with the sprinter to talk about her dramatic 400m World Championship win in Moscow and what the future holds for the 29-year-old.
IN August, Christine Ohuruogu became Great Britain’s most successful female athlete of all time. Try telling her that, though.
Ohuruogu’s 400m win in Moscow last month cemented her place alongside greats such as Dame Kelly Homes, Denise Lewis and Sally Gunnell, and will undoubtedly see her challenge Mo Farah and Chris Froome for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award.
However, despite the clutch of World titles and Olympic medals the 29-year-old boasts, Ohuruogu refuses to count herself in the same breath as the names mentioned above.
There’s something quite humbling about the Newham-born athlete given what she has achieved in her career to date and even when you describe her as a ‘headline act’ for today’s Great North City Games, which take place on the Newcastle Quayside, she smiles and laughs in an embarrassed, almost incomprehensible manner.
She also has the honour of starting tomorrow’s Great North Run alongside Ashes winner Graeme Swann and while she might not think of herself in the same bracket as the sporting heroes that have started the half marathon in the past, her story is certainly just an inspirational as any other.
In 2011, she almost called time on her career. A calamitous, injury-hit year culminated in a false start disqualification in the 400m final at the Daegu World Championships – she had hit rock bottom.
Having won gold in the Beijing Olympics and taken the world title in Osaka in 2007, it would have been the easy option to hang her spikes up, but when you look at Ohuruogu’s career, doing things the easy way just isn’t her thing.
She battled back and thanks to her remarkable spirit and never-say-die attitude, features which are prominent in her racing, she persuaded herself to carry on at least until London 2012.
Now, just over twelve months on Ohuruogu has Olympic silver and her second world title in the bag, but she still refuses to count herself amongst the greatest in history.
“I’m not,” Ohuruogu insists. “I don’t see that. I’m still in my bubble here.
“Those guys (Farah, Froome) are amazing. They blow me away they really do. Mo is one person I think is supreme and I don’t know if that’s a good enough word for him.
“When you see him he’s just so chilled all the time. My sister was with us in Moscow and she saw him in the dinner hall a few times and she said, ‘I can’t believe how chilled he is, you wouldn’t think he’d won all those medals’. Everybody just loves Mo, we’re so proud of him. When you look at him you wouldn’t think that’s the Mo Farah. You wouldn’t think he’d just won he’s so relaxed.
“I think once I’ve retired it would be the time to look back on things. I remember when I won in 2008 it was great, but you don’t really see it because you’re still competing. People think that once you’ve won a medal the world stops.
“It doesn’t. You’ve still got things to do. I’m not just going to sit in my house lounging until the end of time. I’ve got stuff I need to do. The first 300m is still killing me. I think I expect things to go a certain way so I’ve got to keep working on it.”
For the medals she has won, it’s staggering to think there is still room for improvement in three quarters of Ohuruogu’s race, but it gives her the belief she can go faster.
Her dramatic win in Moscow – she pipped Botswana’s Amantle Montsho to gold by four hundredths of a second after making up a five-metre gap going into the final straight – also broke Kathy Smallwood-Cook’s 28-year-old British record.
It will be shown to upcoming athletes for years to come and serve as a lesson on how never to give up in any race, but while everyone is still talking about her Moscow heroics, Ohuruogu prefers to look ahead.
She said: “I won it literally by the skin of my teeth. To be honest, I know people get more excited about it than I do. I know it sounds strange, but it's in my head, so that's fine.
“I don't watch the races again. Me and my coach have spoken about it and it's done, we don't go over and over it.
“It's weird. That's how we have always been - we win a medal, where's the next one? What are we going to do next? How are we going to make it better?
“It was great to have run what I ran in Moscow, but me and my coach are still not happy. We are still trying to tweak things. That first 300m is killing me, it's not quite where it needs to be just yet.
“I’m happy I’ve got the record. It’s taken me nearly ten years to come close! I think that I have to capitalise on the year I’ve had. Having the strength to come back in the Olympic year helped. I would like to think I can go faster. If I can get my race plan sorted then that’ll be great. I’m as fast as I’ll ever be; I’m as strong as I’m ever going to be. It’s about being a bit smarter, race-wise.”
The 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow presents Ohuruogu’s next opportunity to go faster on the big stage, but even at 29 she believes the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio is a realistic target.
Competing on home soil next summer is a big draw for the 400m specialist and she hopes the atmosphere and support that made London 2012 can spill over into the Commonwealth arena.
“Because of London I’m desperate to come back,” Ohuruogu admitted. “People really understood what sport is last year. Fans were able to actually touch and see our story. You didn’t just see an athlete running, you saw somebody you knew and came to understand.
“The supporters came to see us as real people with real stories and real lives and I think we need to continue that. It’s not just 2012, it’s 2013, 2014 and 2015. We have to keep it going for the complete Olympic cycle because it’s not just us, it’s the youth and the athletes coming through.
“If we don’t care about it enough, how are they going to?”
That is a long way off, though, and before next season even comes into her thinking Ohuruogu is looking forward to this weekend and the 50,000 high fives she is likely to give at the Great North Run start line.
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