Double British shot put champion Sophie McKinna aiming to break 38-year-old record at UK Athletics Indoor Championships

It’s a record which has lasted since 1984 but Sophie McKinna is confident that she can better Venissa Head’s British indoor shot put record of 19.06m at the upcoming UK Athletics Indoor Championships.

The championships, which take place in Birmingham on February 26-27, will double up as a qualification event for the World Indoor Championships in March and McKinna is eager to make a big impact after suffering a tumultuous 2021.

“I love throwing in Birmingham,” the 27-year-old says. “I’m very excited that the British Indoors have gone back there and it’s my favourite place to throw. I’ve performed there since I was an under-13 athlete. I’d like to go into Birmingham in the form that I’m in now and I’m not going to make any secrets about it, I’m going out there to break the British indoor record.

“I’ve said all along my targets have been set on that for the last few seasons. People say don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself but I think I can realistically achieve that. I’d definitely like to do that at the British Champs.” 

Sophie McKinna at Tokyo 2020 (Getty)

Last year McKinna broke her elbow in February and then in the summer she was one of six British athletes pinged out in Tokyo. It meant that McKinna wasn’t able to train twice a day and she subsequently missed out on the final after throwing a best of 17.81m. To put that into context, she passed 18m outdoors on four occasions in 2021.

“I’m totally transparent about it now,” McKinna adds. “I didn’t have a good time in Tokyo. The isolation didn’t help matters and I lost a fair amount of weight because of the food situation. I wasn’t able to train twice a day but I should’ve held it better together in the competition.

“Nobody expected that to happen though and it was heartbreaking because I came back a week later and threw a much better throw [18.47m] in Manchester.”

The Great Yarmouth & District AC athlete now wants to draw a line on the events of last year, instead focusing on the four major championships in 2022.

“I ended up throwing a best of 18.34m last year but I was in a lot better shape than my form suggested so I’m very much looking forward to showing that this indoor season,” the shot putter says confidently. “I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m 21kg down and I’m moving better.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity and of course this hasn’t happened before and probably won’t happen again. It’s a big ask for the body but I think I’ve got the volume to be prepared to perform to my best at all four [championships].

“I’m throwing further than I have before in training. I threw a PB recently [in training] and now I’ve just got to prove it in a world-class field. The numbers on paper don’t reflect the athlete that I am and a few things that happened last year didn’t work in my favour. I’m currently on a three-week training camp with Chase Ealey from the US and it’s about making sure I get to the level she’s at.”

That’s not too much of a problem so far for McKinna who beat Ealey – whose personal best is 19.68m – just last week at the World Athletics Indoor Silver Tour event in Manchester with 18.53m, a distance just one centimetre off her indoor personal best. We’re not even in February.

After the UK Athletics Indoor Championships, McKinna is focused on Belgrade and clearing 19m for the first time in her career.

Last year was an emotional rollercoaster and performance is always difficult if you can’t keep your mental state,” McKinna says. “It wasn’t an easy time but last year is last year and this year is new. I’m not here to make finals and make up the numbers.”

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