The double Paralympic champion hopes her guide runner, Chris Clarke, can return from injury to join her at the World Para Athletics Championships this summer
The first race of the season in world championship year is always an important milestone for any athlete. It is set to prove even more significant for Libby Clegg this year as she is to compete with a different guide runner for the first time after what she describes as “a bit of a hiccup”.
The double Paralympic gold medallist is set to return to the track in Dubai this week for her first race since the Rio Games but she will do so without Chris Clarke, who guided visually-impaired sprinter Clegg to her T11 100m and 200m titles last summer.
Clarke suffered a ruptured Achilles the day after the pair returned from a warm weather camp in Tenerife in January and since then Clegg has been running with Caleb Downes, a member of her training group and a 10.57 100m man.
Despite a number of changes in the run-up to the Rio Games – which included a loss of funding in 2015, teaming up with Clarke in February 2016 and a classification change from T12 to T11 which means Clegg must now wear a blindfold to compete – the pair achieved record-breaking success in Brazil.
“I knew I was capable of winning two gold medals but I never really thought it was necessarily something that was going to happen because I’d had so much happen that year that was negative,” Clegg says.
“I was trying to sort everything out with being taken off funding, sorting out my own support team and things, but I think that’s really what helped me last year. I got to pick who I was working with, I had to make my own decisions and I took full responsibility and ownership. I felt happy and I think that makes a huge difference.
“This year is a bit different because Chris is now injured and we are a successful partnership.
“Obviously Chris’ health is the priority.”
With July’s World Para Athletics Championships in London the main aim this year, she adds: “In an ideal world I’d like to run with Chris at the World Championships because I know we work really well together. Things are going really well with his rehab at the moment. I’ve got faith in the people who are working with him, but it’s out of my control.
“I know that I’m in the best shape I could be in currently, it’s just whether I can help Caleb guide me as efficiently as Chris can. We won’t know that until we race.”
Away from the track, Clegg has been working with her fiancé and fellow sprinter Dan Powell on the growth of his new business, Ability Training, which offers both a fully-inclusive personal training and sports massage service, plus a visual awareness workshop.
The workshop is designed to teach coaches and instructors to work effectively and efficiently with visually-impaired clients or members of their group.
“The idea is to help normal blind and visually-impaired people get involved in having access to gyms and make sure that they feel confident and have the independence to do it,” says Clegg.
“The elite side is great but not everyone is going to be a Paralympian,” she adds. “I’m really passionate about getting people into the gym and making it more accessible for them.”
Another of Clegg’s passions is having people celebrate Paralympic sport and the London 2012 silver medallist adds: “I think we’re incredibly lucky to have a World Championships back in the Olympic Stadium so soon after a Paralympic Games.
“I’m really looking forward to it. The Paralympic Games was a huge, huge success so I’m hoping that the World Championships will be equally as successful.”
» Tickets for the World Para Athletics Championships, taking place from July 14-23, are now back on sale at tickets.london2017athletics.com