Former GB hockey player is now lighting up the track and is curious to know how far she can go in the sport

Kate Axford had a dream of representing Great Britain at the Paris Olympics on the hockey pitch but now has ambitions of doing it in athletics.

The 24-year-old decided to switch sports after a labral tear in her hip joint – an injury she sustained when changing direction in training – which meant she couldn’t handle the force of sharp movement that you need to play hockey.

It forced Axford to re-think. She turned to running and started training under the stewardship of Charlie Dickinson at Belgrave Harriers at the end of March.

Since then Axford has clocked 16:39 over 5km, won the Comeback 5000m at Battersea in 15:49.79 (April 23) and took victory in her first ever 3000m race at the Loughborough International in 9:06.02 (May 21).

Axford was also chosen to represent England Athletics in Loughborough and the former hockey pro, who was contracted with Great Britain up until January, can’t quite believe how the last few months have gone.

“It means an awful lot to get an England vest,” she told AW.  “You’re running with some incredible athletes in Loughborough. It’s exciting and my first mentality is to go out there and enjoy it.

“Being totally honest, I never thought it would go that well. I was running with incredible athletes who had already had really fast times. I wanted to just perform to my best in the race and I think I’ve got that grittiness to always try and win. So I managed to pull it off!”

Axford isn’t a complete stranger to running. She finished 68th at the 2013 English Schools Cross County Championships and also competed in the 1500m at an East Anglian meeting during her teenage years.

However, in the last few months, she has made the kind of waves that start to get people excited about what is possible further down the line.

It’s only May but she has run the third fastest 3000m and sixth quickest 5000m of any female athlete in the UK so far this year.

Kate Axford wins in Loughborough (James Rhodes)

Axford isn’t getting too far ahead of herself though and wants to enjoy every second while she can. She’s grateful for the opportunity but is also eager to grasp it with both hands.

“It’s [running] honestly surreal and I’m just loving it,” Axford said. “I’d love to be able to go as far as my body, talent and training can take me. I’m basically not just going too crazy too early and making sure I manage my load so I don’t get injured.

“I think a lot of it [mindset] is the same [between hockey and athletics], especially when you’re in that element of competition. It’s about not leaving anything out on the hockey pitch or the track and that’s a mentality that I have.”

Axford is not short of support. Hollie Webb, who is Great Britain’s hockey captain and scored the winning penalty to win Olympic gold back in 2016, sent a message on Instagram stating “smashing it!” after her 3000m triumph.

A myriad of Axford’s former British hockey team-mates have also recognised her running achievements.

“I think everyone around me is quite happy that they’ve seen me enjoying a different sport and pushing my boundaries,” she added. “That includes everyone I’ve played hockey with and all the coaches I had. They’re so supportive with the decision I made and willing me on.

“I had a dream of going to the Paris Olympics as part of the hockey team and even though I’m a different sport it’s still the ultimate dream.”

The big test for Axford will be when she faces athletes who have represented Great Britain at global championships, at the UKA Championships (July 8-9). Perform well in Manchester against the best of what the UK has to offer and suddenly the temperature will rise.

Axford is still unsure what discipline she will do but it is likely to be somewhere from the 1500m to the 5000m.

There is a huge sense of the unknown but that may well be Axford’s biggest strength.

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