3rd August 2018
MEDAL REALLOCATION INSPIRES MARILYN OKORO TO TARGET TOKYO
Marilyn Okoro had to wait nearly a decade to officially become an Olympic medallist, but ten years after her first Olympic Games experience, the 800m runner has set her sights on competing at another Olympics.
Okoro was part of the women’s 4x400m relay team who were promoted from fifth to bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing after the second and fourth place teams were disqualified for doping violations after a reanalysis of samples
On Saturday 21 July, Okoro got to wear her Olympic medal for the first time after the quartet of Okoro, Christine Ohuruogu, Kelly Sotherton and Nicola Sanders, were presented with their bronze medals at the Müller Anniversary Games.
“I’m still buzzing. It was the best I could have possibly dreamt it, aside from it being 10 years ago. But everything happens for a reason and it was such a special experience and one I will never forget. I didn’t realise until I actually got on the podium how emotional it was going to be,” Okoro said.
“I loved Beijing. It is my favourite championships to this day. Your first Olympics is always going to be special and I just remember being in such amazing form and just relishing every occasion. It was a bit tough for me because the 800 didn’t quite go to plan, so to be able to have the chance to come back out into the Birds Nest and compete again was amazing.
“I just remember the stadium being incredible, there was an electric atmosphere and I remember it being complete euphoria. But us four girls were completely dejected because we didn’t quite know how we managed to place fifth as we had much higher hopes. So, it was very disappointing, but I can’t take away from the Championships as a whole, it was an amazing experience and an amazing Olympics and definitely the highlight of my career so far,” the Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier added.
Whilst the rest of the relay squad from Beijing have since retired, Okoro has not given up on her dream of competing at another Olympic Games. In fact, receiving the medal has only fuelled her ambition even further.
“On a personal level, it has really boosted my confidence which has taken quite a big knock over the last few years, so it means a lot to have the actual medal with me,” Okoro said.
“I have always said I want to keep going to Tokyo, so I feel like I have got a real focus and motivation now to keep going for two more years. My body is starting to feel better and I am just starting back running again. There are still a few things I need to put in place, but the medal has definitely given me a boost and a source of inspiration.”
Alongside five global relay medals, including world bronze in 2007, Okoro has also had individual success in her favoured event of the 800m; winning bronze medals at the European Indoor Championships in 2011 and the IAAF World Athletics Final in 2007 and 2008.
The former British champion’s outdoor 800m best of 1:58.45 from 2008 ranks her sixth on the UK all-time list. But, since then, the 33-year-old’s career has been plagued with setbacks and injuries.
“When I came on to the scene I had a whirlwind beginning to my career. I couldn’t really put a foot wrong and then after 2012 it all sort of went downhill for me and I feel like I am only just recovering from that now,” Okoro said.
“I have had lots of changes in terms of coaching, I have relocated, I have since moved back, so there have been lots of changes for both me personally and my track career, so I struggled to put seasons and winter training together. When you keep picking up injuries it can be a bit of a chain reaction, then that has a knock-on effect and then the doubts start creeping in.
“Everyone keeps questioning whether I have retired, which I have never ever announced, so for me receiving the medal was just that little extra boost to keep going for the next two years.”
After missing out on the European Championships and Olympic Games in 2012, Okoro made the decision to move to Florida, USA, before returning to the UK in June 2017.
“I spent five amazing years in Florida, but I didn’t anticipate how hard it was going to be. It paid off in other ways, but it didn’t really pay off in terms of my running. Yes, I had some great training sessions out there, but essentially, I over trained. I was always peaking a bit too early in the year. There were lots of lessons learned and it was a great eye opener.”
The Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier believes she has still got more to give and she can be competitive right up until Tokyo 2020.
“There’s something in me which makes me realise that I haven’t tapped into my potential yet. Yes, what I have done is great, but I wouldn’t want to retire knowing I haven’t fully given everything that I could possibly give. I feel like the next two years I am just going to really enjoy it and I am confident now knowing what I need and embracing who I am as an 800-metre runner,” the 33-year-old said.
“It has all been a fantastic learning curve and I feel like I will be going into the next two years with my eyes on Tokyo as a very different athlete and a very different Marilyn that started this journey back in 2006. There are definitely days when I am like ‘what am I thinking’, but that Saturday definitely confirmed that I am doing the right thing. My body is still willing, my mind has caught up and I am just excited for what is still to come.”