Olympics: Lee McConnell close to fulfilling Games plan
FOR most athletes, competing at the Olympic Games is just a dream. For Lee McConnell it was a plan – and one that involved taking part in the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth not just once, but three times.
With the opening ceremony of London 2012 now little more than a month away, McConnell is on the verge of realising that plan, following her appearances in Athens eight years ago and in Beijing 2008. Ranked third in Great Britain in the 400 metres, she is virtually guaranteed a place in the relay squad and goes into this weekend’s trials in Birmingham aiming for a slot in the individual event too.
“It is looking good for me in the relay, because I’m ranked third, but I’m definitely not giving up on a place in the individual,” the 33-year-old Glaswegian says. “I want to run the individual event and the 4x400 relay.
“It’s competitive, but I really do want an individual spot. With Christine Ohuruogu, Shana Cox, myself, Nicola Sanders, Kelly Massey, Emily Diamond – these girls are all running pretty quick times this year, so it’s going to be a real competitive trials.”
McConnell began her track-and-field life as a high jumper, switched to the 400m and then to the hurdles before returning to the flat one-lap event. It is now about a dozen years since she decided to aim for three Olympics and, when she won a silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, she knew it was a realistic ambition.
“When I started, it was always the plan to make three Olympics. At the time I didn’t know that the last one would be London, a home Games with a home crowd, making it more special.
“But I never saw it as a big challenge. I always believed I would make it to three Olympics. That was what I thought after Manchester. I could potentially have made four if I’d been better in Sydney – if I had been a better high jumper.
“Age wise, I think I could have made four. But talent wise, I’m not sure. I don’t think I’ll manage Rio. It would need to be another change of sport – and I don’t think I’m quite up for that.”
So London will be McConnell’s final Olympics, and it could yield a first medal if the relay team live up to their potential. She arguably should have had one in Athens, where Britain were fourth, as the American quartet who won included Crystal Cox, who later admitted to doping.
The IAAF ruled that the US team should lose their medals, but the Olympic authorities have yet to follow suit. McConnell would not turn down a bronze if it was awarded to her but she is more interested in winning one by her own efforts.
“Maybe in the future I’ll end up with a medal through the post. Who knows? I don’t know about deserving it. If I got a medal, fine. But I don’t think I’m that bothered, because I didn’t get it at the time. The big thing about getting a medal is you stand on the podium with your friends and family in that stadium. That was taken away from us. The medal wouldn’t really mean as much as it would have then – and it’s a long time ago now.
“It’s the memories that I’ve been robbed of. It’s more that than the hard metal itself – I’ve been robbed of those moments, my family and friends were robbed of those as well.
“It does spur me on. An Olympic medal is the one I don’t have out of the four major championships – I’ve won medals at the other three.
“So it would be really great to finish the set, especially to do it in London. That would be fantastic if we can all run well and deliver a medal at the London Olympics.”
The Commonwealth Games are in Glasgow in 2014 and, although McConnell has yet to commit to going on for the next two years, you suspect that the lure of a home Games could drive her on, especially if London is a positive experience.
With the relay squad possibly in contention for a medal, she just hopes her family are able to find a way to watch her.
“My family have got tickets for the individual events but not for the relay,” she says. “We cannot get our hands on relay tickets.
“So, at the moment, my mum is not a happy person. We were lucky to get tickets for the heats and semi of the individual, but nothing for the relay.
“Put an ad out: ‘Tickets wanted’. It’s been a really difficult system. I just hope Glasgow don’t go down the same route.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east