Shot-putter a bright prospect
The Olympics must be an ambition for teenage Norfolk shot-putter Sophie Mckinna, but 2012 may be a bit too early.
The Bradwell athlete has just made history, becoming the first British female shot-putter to gain a medal at a global championship by taking silver at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille.
The 16-year-old shot-putter, who attends East Norfolk College, admitted to being speechless after her throw of 14.90m was enough to net her second place and firmly establish her as a star in the making, writes Mark Armstrong.
'It's an absolutely fantastic feeling,' said Mckinna, of Great Yarmouth & District Athletic Club.
'The other athletes gave me a really good run for my money, throw after throw until the end. It made it all the better for those watching and all the better for me. To be the first British woman to win a medal also makes it really special.'
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China's Tiangian Guo lived up to her pre-event favourite status to win gold with 15.24m, but Mckinna will take heart that her personal best of 15.71m, set at the Norfolk AAA Championships in May, would have meant gold.
The pressure of competition meant that all the athletes struggled to get near their best but Mckinna, who is coached by former British shot-putting star Geoff Capes, insisted that big competitions like these are about getting on the podium, rather than notching up records.
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'It was a metre down on what I know I can throw, but championships are about winning medals, not about records, so I'm really pleased to get a win a silver medal,' added Mckinna, who beat Czech Republic athlete Katinka Urbanik into third place. 'To have all my family with me made it even better.'
Mckinna certainly kept her family on tenterhooks for most of the event – she only just qualified for the final by throwing over the 14m mark with her final attempt.
The youngster took a couple of attempts to settle in the final as well before throwing her best of the competition, but she believes the experience will stand her in very good stead for the future.
'I left it a bit late in qualifying and then in the final it took me a couple of attempts before I produced a decent throw – but that's what it's all about.'
Mckinna's next big competition is the Youth Commonwealth Games on the Isle of Man in September and she is looking to build on her Lille performance.
'I know I can throw further so it's up to me to knuckle down and make sure that I keep improving.'
Mckinna's father, Andrew, was there to witness her bag the silver medal and believes it is just reward for the dedication she gives to the sport.
'The experience will stand her in very good stead she thoroughly deserves it. To go up against the best in the world and produce is a real credit to her. She trains six times a week and at times it is difficult to juggle studies and her athletics but manages to take it all in her stride.'