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Libby Clegg's Beijing Diary

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Libby Clegg and Lincoln Asquith
Mid race at Assen in 2006 - major concentration!




15 July 2008




I’ll give you an introduction about me - I started running at the age of about 10, as I used to think I was quite good, it was also a great release for me. I started doing middle distance running and it was my Mum who encouraged me. I did cross-country for a while at Macclesfield Harriers, we were living in Cheshire, I really enjoyed competing.


Looking back, when I was diagnosed with an eye condition at the age of 9, it was a difficult time for me, as I didn’t know what it meant. It was basically a deterioration of my central vision. I was still enjoying my running so a couple of years later, my Mum found out about British Blind Sport, an association for people of all abilities to get involved in various sporting activities.


Through the British Blind Sport, I met loads of friends who were visually impaired like me, which was really nice and helped me a lot. We travelled to Solihull the first time for a training day and I did a range of athletics events. It was not long after that I was selected for the British Blind Sport squad for a cross-country event in Prague. I really enjoyed the experience, had a great time.


Libby Clegg
Precious metal - my first medal from my first major championship


When I was 12, I moved with my family from Cheshire to Edinburgh and started at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh, which is a boarding school so I was living away from my family. I found the change quite difficult, as I hadn’t accepted I had a disability and was surrounded by people with a visual impairment. I was probably 14, when I accepted my visual impairment and got used to everything.


The next step for me was being named on the UKA World Class Potential Plan at the age of 14, I had started running 200m and my time was good enough to qualify for the first level of funding. It was around that time that I started to focus on sprinting rather than middle distance.


Since then, a few people have been involved with my training. At the Edinburgh Woollen Mill club (now Edinburgh AC) I met Bob Moxie in 2004, a sprints coach who is still works with me now on my basic training. Aileen McGillivary is my UK Athletics Performance Manager and helps oversee my training sessions on a regular basis. My main coach is Ilona Melounova, she writes my training programme but lives in Leeds, so I don’t get to see her so much, but she plans all my training.


It terms of my progress, I didn’t think I would make the 2006 World Championships, as I only met my guide runner in early 2006. It was after an accident racing in March that year that I realised I needed a guide runner. I was racing in a league match at Gateshead when I started in lane 1 and finished up in lane 8 when I finished. It made people around me really worry about my racing, so I needed to find a guide runner to race with me.


Libby Clegg and Lincoln Asquith
Every little detail counts - getting my starting blocks sorted pre race
All about Lincoln


I met Lincoln Asquith at a UKA squad weekend in Sheffield, he said he would have a go but had never been a guide runner before. It worked out really well and he agreed to race with me later in the season.


I was on holiday in Cornwall, when I found out I had been selected for the 2006 World Championships, I was quite surprised. I then planned to do a few races with Lincoln, we trained together a few times. Before we left for the World Championships in Assen, I had to learn about the rules of racing with a guide runner.


Going to the World Championships at the age of 16 was a big experience, I was quite nervous as it was my first major championships. My family all came out to support me, it was nice to have them in the crowd. I didn’t expect to do that well, but I had been reading up on my main rival from France. I had analysed her racing strategy, from the Paralympics in Athens.


I remember the call up room for my first heat of the 200m at the World Championships, I was really nervous, Lincoln told me that the French girl wasn’t in my race, but she was, he lied! Anyway, it went really well, I got a PB in my heat, then the semi final and another PB in the final to get Silver, so I was really chuffed.


Libby Clegg and Lincoln Asquith
Winning the silver at Assen - it was a great experience and I hope to go one better in Beijing
Still lots to learn


It was really strange to be standing on the podium, there were lots of people cheering and I’ve still got some great photographs of me with my family.


In the 100m, I was disqualified in the heat, as Lincoln crossed the line first, just ahead of me by a few millimetres! The rules are that the guide runner must always finish behind the athlete, which is really difficult as you have to slow down at the finish to make sure. I remember Lincoln was really upset, but we were still learning to run together.


Since 2006, there has not been a major championship, so my goal has been Beijing for two years, can’t wait now but it still seems a long way away. I came back from a hip injury last year, but my running has gone really well this season.


It has been hard juggling all my work at school and training, I don’t think some people realise what’s involved. I had two Higher exams, so my results come out in a few weeks! I’m hoping to go to College to study Social Science.


It’s a bit surreal thinking about Beijing, but I’m definitely looking forward to competing at the Paralympics, I’ll keep you updated on my progress in a few weeks time.