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Norfolk Olympic hopeful making face masks and training in her garden while 2020 Tokyo games postponed

PUBLISHED: 10:38 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:38 24 July 2020

Sophie McKinna celebrates winning the women's shot put at the British Indoor Championships in Birmingham Picture: PA

Sophie McKinna celebrates winning the women's shot put at the British Indoor Championships in Birmingham Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Nick Richards spoke to Norfolk’s Sophie McKinna who has taken up a new hobby during lockdown instead of preparing for the 2020 Olympic Games

Some of Sophie McKinna's face masks she has been making during lockdownSome of Sophie McKinna's face masks she has been making during lockdown

She should be getting ready to take part in the biggest sporting event of her life, but instead a Norfolk shot putter has been training in her garden and making face masks.

Sophie McKinna, 25, from Gorleston, threw the qualifying distance for Tokyo 2020 last year at the World Championships in Doha and will confirm her selection for the games, which now start on July 23, 2021, if she finishes in the top two at the rescheduled British Championships.

Instead of flying the flag for Team GB this July, Sophie has spent the last few months at home recovering from injury as well as beginning to prepare for that big Olympic challenge next year.

Sophie said: “I got injured at the start of the year, I ripped ankle ligaments and had been in rehab getting fit and ready. It was supposed to take between 12 and 18 weeks to be fully fit. It’s not perfect by any means but we’re getting there.”

Sophie holds down two jobs to fund her athletics career, working at Sentinel Leisure Trust gym and as a custody officer for Norfolk Constabulary but decided to stop them both with the outbreak of coronavirus.

She said: “It’s a risk not worth taking. I haven’t been furloughed, I decided I had to stop working as I needed to prioritise my sporting career and the Olympics, so I haven’t been doing either job since March.

“We first heard in March that Tokyo was off this year and we’re waiting to hear when competition can open up again. I knew I had qualified for the Olympics back in January but competition has been suspended since then. I just need to finish in the top two at the British Championships to secure my place.”

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Qualification for Tokyo in Sophie’s event will take place right up to the opening of next year’s games but all being well Sophie will be at next year’s Olympics.

“I’ve been training in the garden and using gym equipment. I’ve been throwing against other athletes in a virtual competition which is good but very frustrating. I actually recorded my second best ever throw in the back garden which was great but obviously didn’t officially count for anything.

“There’s a test event taking place at the UEA on August 15 with some top shot and discus throwers coming down for a competition, which is more of a friendly event although it will be competitive but on a small scale.”

With competition slowly coming back into the athletics world, Sophie has turned her hand to a new pastime to keep busy – she’s started making and selling face masks online.

She said: “I wanted to learn a new skill in lockdown so I learnt how to sew. I’ve been making masks to keep my mind active and to maybe have a business sideline. It’s called Athel’s Attic which is named after my new dog Athel. I’ve been keeping fit by walking her too, so with the dog and the masks, I’ve kept busy.”

With less than a year until next year’s Olympics begin, Sophie’s getting excited about exploring a new country.

She said: “I’ve been to Singapore and Australia but never been to Japan. I love learning about different cultures so will be looking forward to seeing what it’s like although my prime reason for going there is to focus on the Olympics. I’ll be staying in the athletes’ village when I’m there but once it’s over I will have a chance to hopefully see more of the country with my family who will be there supporting me.

“Food wise, sushi isn’t something I’m really into but I’ll try anything once!”

Check out Sophie’s range of face masks and doggy bandanas at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AthelsAttic


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