26 July 2011
Kelly Sotherton took time off her preparations for the Aviva UK Trials and Championships to visit patients and staff at Birmingham Children’s Hospital yesterday, many of whom are due to watch the Olympic bronze medallist in action at Birmingham Alexander Stadium next weekend.
The Birchfield Harrier spent several hours touring wards at the hospital, including the intensive care and cardiac departments, ahead of a visit by hospital patients and staff to the Birmingham Alexander Stadium, organised as part of the hospital’s relationship with UKA.
The former heptathlete-turned-400m runner, spent time talking to parents of patients and posing for countless photos with fans – both young and old!
And Sotherton, who herself has spent time in medical facilities through sporting injury, admits she was ‘overwhelmed’ with everything about the hospital, from staff to patients, adding that the trip has inspired to her to become further involved with the hospital’s future fundraising projects.
She said: “I pass the hospital so often, maybe even every day, and I've always known kind of what goes on, but to finally visit and meet some of the incredible parents and children here is quite overwhelming.
“Every time I pass here from now I’ll always know what goes on and it’ll take me back to this visit. I feel honoured that I was asked to come and hopefully this won’t be the last time.
“It’s been an amazing day and the word ‘overwhelming’ keeps going around in my head. To see how much trauma these little people have to go through in the first part of their life is quite something and it’s great to know there’s such a fantastic team here caring for them.
“I know a group of them are coming to watch me in action in the Aviva Series event next weekend and hopefully my visit can raise awareness and help the hospital raise the extra £600,000 they need for their fundraising campaign.”
The children and staff from Birmingham Children’s Hospital – with which UKA Chief Executive Niels de Vos combines his role as a non-executive Director – will witness the best of Britain battling it out be part of the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team to travel to Daegu for the IAAF World Championships next month.
Sotherton will run in the 400m, hoping for the same success she achieved at the Aviva Indoor UK Trials and Championships back in February, where she took the national title in her first ever competition as a specialist 400m runner.
But for the 34-year-old, qualification is the name of the game this time around, as she has her sights set on qualifying for the relay team in South Korea in August ahead of what is undoubtedly going to be a huge year preparing for the Olympics in 2012.
She said: “I’ve got the Aviva UK Trials and Championships starting on Friday and for me, this is the first time I've gone to a Trials trying to qualify for a team, because in the past I've used the Trials as a warm-up for the major championships.
“As a result I’ll probably go into the competition a little more nervous and anxious than I have been in the past. But I am looking forward to it, and it is my home track, so I’ll hopefully be getting a little more support than everyone else.
“I ran the 400m at the Trials in 1998 and 2003, but this will be the first time I’ll do it as a specialist 400m runner. It’s a completely different kettle of fish learning to do something new at this age and at this level in your career, but hopefully it’ll turn out well.
“The World Championships are just six weeks away and I hope to be in the 4x400m squad and hopefully participate in the relay itself. This year is meant to be all about me getting back on track and getting fit, but next year is a different kettle of fish entirely.
“I’ll probably be able to afford to train a little harder and from a little earlier than I have. It’ll be all guns blazing for London. It’ll be a slightly different attitude, not thinking about the year after, just gung-ho for 2012.”
And Sotherton says she is looking forward to competing for the first time at the newly-renovated Birmingham Alexander Stadium, which only two weeks ago hosted the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix, the ninth stop of the illustrious Samsung Diamond League series.
She added: “I'm very lucky to train at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium, so to have the Aviva UK Trials and Championships there is very special. I didn’t actually make it to the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix there the other week, but I did watch it on TV and I couldn’t believe how much of an impact the new stand makes.
“The whole dynamic of the stand has changed, and it looked amazing. Even in the rain it looked glorious and I can’t wait to compete there. There were some great performances there that day, and I'm sure with the quick track there, there’ll be more to come at the Trials.”
Sotherton will be competing at the Aviva UK Trials and Championships at Birmingham Alexander Stadium from 29-31 July. For tickets or more information go to uka.org.uk/aviva-series or phone 08000 556 056. The event will be shown live on BBC2 / BBC HD.