Down but not out: Injured Sale Harriers long jumper Abigail Irozuru sets sights on major international final for 2013

Exclusive by Chris Bailey

Sale Harriers’ Abigail Irozuru doesn’t lack any drive to become the best – but unfortunately at the moment the 23-year-old’s body is failing her mind.

The Great Britain long jumper picked up a knee injury while at a warm-weather training camp in South Africa this month, adding to back problems she has suffered from since June.

And when all Abigail desires is to train towards her Olympic aspirations – having been so close to London 2012 – it has made for an irritating wait on the sidelines.

“It’s so frustrating, I feel like my body is on the brink of breaking down all the time.

“I had to pull out of [a British Athletics meeting in] Glasgow which I really wanted to do,” she told MM.

“But now I’ve been given injections and have seen the doc, who said ‘Woah, it’s worse than I thought it was!’

“So there are a lot of things going on – my body just doesn’t want to know, it needs a lot more conditioning I guess.

“Right now it’s a case of resting but at the same time you can’t just rest – you have to do the rehab, and then when you get back you’ve missed things.”

While many of the UK’s top athletes are financially secure, Abigail has juggled university studies and now full-time work at a legal headhunting firm with her passion for competing.

Her goal for 2013 is to reach the World Athletics Championships long jump final, and with seven months to go she still has every chance to see it through.

Though back on British Athletics lottery funding after smashing her personal best with a 6.80 metre jump last year, she knows there is huge pressure to perform in a demanding environment.

“That 6.80m [jump] shows I can do it and that would get me into a final, but if I don’t do it I’ll be off funding again and there’ll be all the struggles and money worries that come with it,” she said.

“I don’t think they give you much leeway with injuries, I was injured before and they took me off it.

“It depends who you are – it seems to be based on favouritism.

“I think it is going to be more transparent now with the new head coach [Peter Eriksson].

“But it’s just so annoying going through injury in the first place – I don’t want to have to ask for leeway or anything like that.

“It is very cutthroat, but as much as people want to be athletes they’re doing it for others and the nation as a whole.

“If you’ve got people who are slacking and maybe not stepping up or achieving what they’re expected to achieve, you don’t want to support them.

“If it’s to do with money and you feel like you’re wasting your funds, it’s better to direct it to other young and upcoming athletes who can achieve the goals they are set.”

Despite producing her best ever jump in 2012 – at a meet in Sofia, Bulgaria – Abigail does not want this to prove a one-off.

She was overlooked for last summer’s Olympic Games after a disappointing European Championships in Helsinki, rounding off a season she believes brought fewer ups than downs.

“It was a rollercoaster. It was my final year of studying and I was trying so hard to get to the Olympics, but I felt like I sacrificed a lot and in the end I felt there was no reward at the end of it,” she said.

“Apart from the jump – which I only did once – I didn’t feel it was particularly amazing.

“Looking back on it everyone said it was a breakthrough year for me and I should be really happy but at the same time it was a case of ‘what could have been’.

“If it hadn’t have been my final year [at University College, London] I could have entered with more conditioning and maybe mentally I wasn’t tough as I needed to be.

“I could have jumped a 6.80 again but my body was letting me down, my head was letting me down and I felt like I needed to rise to the occasion a lot more than I did.”

As a harsh self-critic there is no chance of Abigail resting on her laurels – expect to see her bounce back with renewed determination to make 2013 the year 2012 could have been.

Image courtesy of UK Athletics TV via Youtube, with thanks.

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