Laura Weightman has spoken of her pride after winning a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games, in what she described as one of the toughest races of her life.
Battling stifling heat and having struggled with a virus in the build up to Saturday’s 5000m final, the 26-year-old powered into the podium places on the final lap.
Amazingly, it was only her second ever track race at this distance.
And her spirited display on Australia’s Gold Coast saw her clinch her second Commonwealth Games medal – the first being a 1500m silver, in Glasgow, four years ago.
Weightman, from Lesbury, said: “It feels incredible to win the 5000m bronze. I am really proud. It was one of the hardest races I have run. The conditions were really tough. It was nearly 30 degrees and in the peak afternoon sun, so it made it that little bit harder.
“Around 10 days before the Games, I had a virus, but luckily, with some rest, I was ready to race.”
The 12-and-a-half-lap race – screened live on the BBC – started at a slow pace, before Kenyan favourites Hellen Obiri and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi made their move and began to stretch the pack.
Weightman – a 1500m runner by trade – was patient and sat towards the back of the field, waiting until the final two laps before turning up the heat.
She chased down Australia’s Celia Sullohern, who was then lying in fourth place, having shaken off Scotland’s Eilish McColgan and Kenya’s Eva Cherono.
With just under 300m remaining, Weightman – representing England – passed Juliet Chekwel, of Uganda, and stayed strong to claim her bronze, behind World Champion Obiri and second-placed Kipkemboi. Weightman posted 15m25.84s, 12 seconds adrift of the winner.
She said: “I knew with around 800m to go that I had a chance of the medal. I was feeling strong, passing athletes and making my way through the field. I sat back for most of the race, just building up my effort, making and covering the moves being made.
“I dug deep and worked as hard as I could to catch the Ugandan athlete and when I went past her and she didn’t respond I ran as fast as I could for the line. In the last 100 metres I thought, I can’t believe it, I’m about to do this.”
With the European Championships taking place in Germany in August, Weightman says that she will switch back to 1500m, but has not ruled out the 5000m in the future.
She said: “I need to take time to reflect on the Games. Racing the 5000m is totally different to the 1500m, I have to be mentally and physically stronger – something I worked towards for the Games.
“I am excited to see what I can do in the future over 5000m. For now though, I am planning to concentrate on the 1500m for the summer.”
In a few weeks’ time, Weightman, coached by track legend Steve Cram, will head out to the altitude training camp at Boulder, America.
The Morpeth Harrier said: “I am excited to be going there as it is where Steve used to do altitude training and this will be my first time in Boulder.”
Weightman is now based in Leeds, but she still has plenty of support from her native Northumberland.
She said: “I want to thank everyone at home for all of their messages of support. It really does mean a lot to see how many people are supporting me and watching.”