Clegg will not al­low prob­lems to de­rail her Rio dream

The Herald - Sport - - UPDATE - DOUG GIL­LON

IT has been a chal­leng­ing year for Par­a­lympic sprinter Libby Clegg. Since win­ning Com­mon­wealth Games gold last year she has split with her part­ner, Scot­land sev­ens squad player Michael Malt­man; changed her coach; failed to meet per­for­mance tar­gets due to in­jury; lost lottery fund­ing and her sup­port per­son­nel; and then ended a long-time part­ner­ship with her guide run­ner.

Un­daunted, she in­sists this won’t de­rail her Par­a­lympic dreams for Rio de Janeiro next year – de­spite an in­vi­ta­tion to switch to cy­cling from fel­low Scot and vis­ually-im­paired sprinter Neil Fachie. He ran in Beijing, then claimed Par­a­lympic cy­cling gold and sil­ver in Lon­don 2012.

“I am ab­so­lutely mo­ti­vated by medalling in Rio next year – 100%,” said Clegg yes­ter­day. “My best times are still in front of me. If I’d not had the in­juries, I strongly be­lieve I’d have got a per­sonal best at the World Cham­pi­onships in Doha. I’ve changed a lot, work­ing with a new coach. I’m 25, and there’s so much I can work on in the next few years. I am not giv­ing up. I would rather have a bad year this year than next.”

Clegg, who won Par­a­lympic 100 and 200 me­tres sil­ver in Lon­don, has four spon­sors who will bankroll her to Brazil; Ed­in­burgh Solic­i­tors’ Property Cen­tre, Scot­tish and Southern En­ergy, Al­lianz, and Eukanuba who sup­ply food for her guide dog.

“I have had Hatti for 18 months – not long in the scheme of things, but she is pretty spe­cial. I feel like I have al­ways had her.”

The big­gest im­pact of fund­ing loss, she says, is “not get­ting to work with my own sup­port ser­vices any more”.

“I’ve been with them for six years at Lough­bor­ough. I have re­place­ments in place which now have to be paid for. I do some com­mer­cial stuff, talks in schools and busi­nesses, but I still don’t have a job. I in­tend to train full time.

“Neil asked if I would get on the bike, but I don’t plan to re­tire from the track any­time soon. Be­sides, I’m too much of a wimp for cy­cling. It looks ter­ri­fy­ing.”

She was told be­fore Doha that if she did not medal, she would not be re­tained on the lottery pro­gramme.

“I was fully aware of my sit­u­a­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, I’d quite a lot of in­juries. It is not ideal, but with my spon­sors’ sup­port, I feel con­fi­dent I can go to Rio and medal. And I still have sup­port from the Scot­tish In­sti­tute of Sport.”

De­spite it all, she says, “Even if I could redo the whole year, I’d make the same de­ci­sions.”

Clegg won Scot­land’s only ath­let­ics gold of Glas­gow 2014.

The death knell for fund­ing was hav­ing to with­draw, in­jured, af­ter the 200m heats in Doha last month. “Mikhail [Hug­gins, her guide] and I did not run par­tic­u­larly well in the heats. There was a bit of mis-com­mu­ni­ca­tion and we did not go with the right race plan. The Cuban [dou­ble Par­a­lympic cham­pion Omara Du­rand] is now run­ning two sec­onds quicker than me.

“There is no an­i­mos­ity. Un­for­tu­nately, it’s a busi­ness de­ci­sion. When you look at how the event has moved for­ward you have to fo­cus on ev­ery an­gle. I need a new guide, quickly, be­cause I will be back into win­ter train­ing, prob­a­bly next week, if my an­kle in­jury has healed.

“I see my­self as a busi­ness. I’m ob­vi­ously sell­ing my­self, and by medalling, I am there­fore a busi­ness. Part­ing from Mikhail was not an easy de­ci­sion, but I have to look at what I want to achieve, and what I need to do.”

UN­DAUNTED: Clegg with her guide

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