Report by Ian Cole, main photograph by Steve Rowe
Christine Ohuruogu says she will be fit to defend her world 400 metres title in Berlin next month.
Britainâ€™s Olympic gold medallist was reported to be â€œa bit of a doubtâ€ at this weekâ€™s team announcement, but she told a lunch gathering of SJA members in Fleet Street today: â€œItâ€™s just a slight niggle. A bit of a hamstring strain. I didnâ€™t race at Crystal Palace so I didnâ€™t make it worse. But Iâ€™ll be there in Berlin.â€
Not that defending her crown is weighing too heavily on her mind. â€œI donâ€™t categorise my races like that,â€ she said. â€œI just see it as another championship, rather than the defence of a title.
She explained her preference for championship racing over the Grand Prix circuit. â€œMy priority has always been to go for championships, no matter what other races are around. The way athletics is, there is always a major championship coming up so there isnâ€™t too much time to look around.â€
Ohuruogu returned from Beijing a year ago with Britainâ€™s only track gold medal of the 2008 Olympics. But she refutes the suggestion that athletics has slipped behind cycling and rowing in Britainâ€™s Olympic priorities. â€œTrack and field is still No.1 in most peopleâ€™s eyes,â€ she said.
â€œThere is huge support for athletics. You only have to look at the numbers who turn up at Crystal Palace each year â€” and that augurs well for 2012.â€
Talk of the London Olympics brings a sparkle to Ohuruoguâ€™s eyes. The girl from Olympic borough Newham still marvels whenever she drives past the fast-growing Games site in Stratford.
â€œItâ€™s really weird. Itâ€™s been reared from dirt. It makes me really proud of London and of my borough.
â€œPeople donâ€™t yet realise what it means to be hosting the most prestigious sporting event in the world. I tell people in Newham: â€˜Take a drive past, walk there even, get on your bikesâ€¦â€™. Itâ€™s an unreal feeling.â€
Ohuruogu, with other athletes, had a hard-hat tour of the site recently, standing on the finish line and the 400 metres start.
The London Games are still three years away and Ohuruogu realises there is a lot of hard graft ahead of her at the Lea Valley Centre which, thanks to Lottery funding, is her training base.
â€œI was fortunate to leave university in 2005 and go straight into full-time training knowing that, thanks to Lottery funding, Iâ€™d be okay financially and have the best training facilities. In addition, there are very good physios and doctors on hand to pick me up if I break down.â€
Despite being a world and Olympic champion, Ohuruogu has yet to win the SJAâ€™s prestigious Sportswoman of the Year award, having been pipped in 2007 by multiple cycling world champion Victoria Pendleton and last year by Becky Adlingtonâ€™s double Olympic gold. Maybe Berlin 2009 will see the runner produce a performance to rectify that omission.
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