Mum of Team GB hammer hero Sophie Hitchon almost missed final pegging out washing

Sophie Hitchon
Sophie Hitchon
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When Sophie Hitchon was a graceful ballerina, her family never imagined she would grow up to be an Olympic hammer thrower.

Fast forward into early adulthood and the 25-year-old is standing on the podium in Rio with a bronze medal round her neck and with a new British record to her name.

“It was absolutely fabulous seeing her get a medal,” said proud mum Wendy, who had to take a day off work to watch her daughter take on the best in the world in Brazil and become the first British woman to scoop an Olympic medal in the hammer.

“All the family are thrilled. We want to throw a party for her when she gets back, but we’re not sure if we can because she might have another couple of competitions to focus on almost straight away.

“We were confident Sophie could get a medal if she threw just as she has been doing recently. Her training had been going really well before the Olympics and we knew some of the other girls don’t always perform on the day.

“Really we were hoping she would get the British record and, if she got that, then we knew she would be close. But as soon as that throw landed you could tell it was a big one.”

The Hitchons were forced to watch Sophie on TV at home in Burnley because Wendy was made redundant two months ago and “we couldn’t justify the cost.”

But it almost proved too much, with Wendy nervously deciding to peg out the washing as the tension mounted, while dad Michael was pacing up and down in the lounge.

“It was one heck of a final throw,” said mum. “We knew that because it was her final throw no-one could overtake her and take that medal off her.

“She’s deserved it because she trains so hard and makes so many sacrifices. This has made it all worthwhile.”

Even as a child Sophie showed great potential, but it took many different shots in the sporting field to find her true calling.

Her grandad, Alan Tomlinson, said: “Sophie has always been very active. She started ballet dancing at nursery and attended the North West School of Dance. She progressed through school and did quite well.

“But it was obvious she was never going to be a ballet dancer and by the age of 15 athletics took over.

“She started doing bits and pieces. For a while she did trampolining. But unfortunately one of the girls had a nasty accident and broke her arm. That sparked the death knell on that.”

The Wellfield and Ivy Bank pupil then took up sprinting, something both her parents were also talented in. Sophie took off and she was winning titles in the Lancashire Championships and Lancashire Schools competitions.

But it was a session at Pendle Athletics Club when she was 15 that opened up a whole new world for her.

Alan said: “Somebody was trying to throw the hammer. It is an extremely difficult skill unless you know what you are doing.

“Someone suggested she give it a go and she did.

“Sophie is very volatile. When she was younger in her trampoline and ballet sessions, she would stop the whole class and shout that she couldn’t do it. It was the same with the hammer throwing. She just exploded. But she did it.”

Sophie continued practicing at the club and showed a real flair. However, she struggled to find coaches to help nurture her talent.

Seeing her determination, dad Michael began coaching classes and became a sprint and hammer thrower coach. One of his pupils included Clitheroe hammer thrower Charlotte Williams.

Sophie’s family has travelled all over the world to watch her compete, going to India and Korea. Alan was recently in Amsterdam for the European competition.

But unfortunately they were unable to get to Rio to watch her biggest success yet.