Clegg will not allow problems to derail her Rio dream
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