WRITTEN FOR ATHLETICS WEEKLY MAGAZINE
After battling with her health for the past six years, Abi Oyepitan’s injury nightmare has finally ended after the 200m runner captured Commonwealth silver in Delhi last week in a long-awaited welcome return to the international stage, writes Nicola Bamford.
In her fastest time for four years, the 30-year-old Shaftesbury Barnet sprinter sped to a 23.26 clocking to finish behind Cydonie Mothersill of the Cayman Islands (22.89) in her first major championship final since finishing seventh in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Coached by Tony Lester at Brunel University, Oyepitan was only fifth in the UK championships with 23.99 back in June but following two months of consistent training recently, the former World University Games 100m champion is back to showing glimpses of her former self:
“I’m really happy - it’s been a long, hard slog,” Oyepitan explained.
“I pulled my hamstring (after winning the Loughborough International 100m in May) so the trials were too early for me and I knew the European’s (in Barcelona in July) wouldn’t happen. I wanted to get the gold (in India) and go under 23-seconds but I can’t complain.”
Indeed, Oyepitan has suffered more than her fair share of injury woes since clocking impressive 11.17 and 22.50 times for the 100m and 200m, respectively, in 2004.
Apart from placing sixth in the 2006 European championship 200m final, the past six years have been full of devastating and frustrating blows for the athlete who works part-time as a volunteer coordinator at a reading charity for children in London.
“My biggest problem was a stress fracture of my shin,” Oyepitan revealed. “It took a couple of years to be diagnosed and then another year for the surgeons to decide that I needed an operation.
Then I had the knee and Achilles problems (the latter which she had surgery for in 2008 and again in 2009). It was one main problem which spiralled into several others – an absolute nightmare and beyond frustration.”
Admitting she would have quit the sport if her 2010 season had not gone so well, Oyepitan continued:
“The Commonwealth’s are a good stepping stone to hopefully move onto the World’s next year – I needed that boost of confidence. I just need that fitness element that I lack from years of problems. I’m finding my feet and learning how to execute a race technically correct again.
I just want an injury-free winter. I try not to plan ahead anymore. I hope to go to the 2011 Worlds (in Daegu, South Korea) and the London 2012 Olympics but I don’t just want to make the relay team or make up the numbers.”