The hard graft has been put in and the preparation is complete – now 1500m star Laura Weightman says she simply cannot wait to compete at the Olympics this weekend.
The 25-year-old, from Lesbury, sealed a dream place at the 2016 Games in Brazil after finishing second at the British Championships in Birmingham in June.
And now the time has come for her to race on the biggest stage of them all, with the Team GB runner set to open her account tomorrow inside the impressive Rio Olympic Stadium, which holds nearly 50,000 fans.
The women’s 1500m heats start at 8.30pm local time – or 12.30am GMT on Saturday – and they will be shown live on the BBC.
If Weightman progresses, she will compete in the semi-final two days later, with the aim of making the final next week. The Morpeth Harrier admits that she is relishing the chance to compete at The Greatest Show on Earth. And she will be cheered on by her mum Diana, brother Adam, sister Kimberly and Kimberly’s boyfriend Finn, who flew out to Brazil on Tuesday.
She said: “All the training is done. I can’t wait to start racing. I am excited and nervous at the same time, but I can’t wait to get out there, put my spikes on and race.”
Weightman is no stranger to the Olympics, having made her debut at London 2012 – where she came through the heats and semis, before finishing 11th in the final.
The track star, who is coached by legendary middle-distance runner Steve Cram, said: “It is an incredible feeling to go to Rio, my second Olympic Games. The dream I had since I was a little girl starting athletics at the age of 12 was to go to the Olympic Games, so to have achieved that now, not once but twice, is really special.
“The past four years since London 2012 have flown by. It’s been an up-and-down journey, certainly not all going as planned, but I feel proud that I can represent Team GB again.”
Weightman is determined to build on her performance in the capital in 2012 and insists she is feeling in good form ahead of her campaign in Brazil.
Reflecting on her expectations for Rio, the Commonwealth silver medallist said: “It is difficult to set a target. I want to go out there and perform. I want to make that final and then we will see what happens from there.”
Weightman has certainly been working hard ahead of the Games.
Prior to heading out to Brazil, she completed a block of high-altitude training in France and came fourth in the Anniversary Games in London last month.
Having arrived in South America, she has been putting the final touches to her preparations at the Team GB training camp in Belo Horizonte.
She is hopeful that her hard work will pay off over the next week.
No matter what happens, Laura is sure to be cheered on by fans at home in Northumberland, while members of her family will be in the Olympic Stadium to watch her. They also have tickets for the women’s 1500m semi-finals (starting Monday, 1.30am GMT) and the final (Wednesday, 2.30am GMT), which will also be shown on the BBC.
Before flying out to Rio, her mum Diana said: “Laura will do her best and she will do the North East proud.
“I am really looking forward to it. It will be a great experience. I don’t get nervous before her races, because I know she has put in the hard work, so all I can do is be there to support her.”
Weightman’s family have certainly been getting into the Olympic spirit, with a giant banner hanging outside their house, with the words ‘Rio 2016. Good luck Laura’ on it.
Weightman said: “Mum is getting into full Olympic spirit. She has a giant flag wishing me luck hanging from my house so there’s no missing that! I’m really grateful for all the support I get and I hope I can do them proud.”
Diana was present for Weightman’s most memorable moment in the sport so far, when she won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The track star hugged her mum inside Hampden Park after sealing second place in a time of 4:09.24.
In what was a memorable year, Weightman went on to secure a bronze in the European Championships the following month.
But it hasn’t been plain sailing for the Northumberland athlete since. Following the highs of 2014, came the devastating low of 2015, when she made a disappointing early exit from the World Championships in Beijing.
She was forced to pull out at the semi-final stage after falling face-first onto the track at the end of her heat the day before, suffering concussion. It was a heartbreaking moment and one which took its toll on her.
But she has recovered and she is determined to show the world what she is capable of in Rio.
She said: “It was really tough after Beijing. It is really hard to describe to anyone how something like that affects you, physically and mentally. It took a long time to recover, but I will be better for it.
“I really want to perform well in Rio. I am desperate to make up for the disappointment in Beijing and show what I can do.”
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