Great Britain shot putter Sophie McKinna says Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualification is a 'dream'
By Sarah Dawkins
Last Updated: 15/10/19 1:11pm
Sophie McKinna has always dreamed of competing at the Olympics.
One of her earliest memories is watching the 2000 Sydney Games with her family aged five and announcing she wanted to be an "Olympican".
Fast forward to 2019 and the 25-year-old has now made that dream a reality.
Competing in the shot put, McKinna's performance at the World Championships in Doha two weeks ago secured her qualification for Tokyo 2020, with a personal best throw of 18.61m.
"It's been a whirlwind. This is my dream, all I've ever wanted to do. I've worked for the last 12 years to be in this position," she said.
"I've been training a minimum of 12 times a week. It's pretty tough but I really enjoy it."
Sophie, from Gorleston in Norfolk, has not just had to work hard in the gym to get to this position.
She receives no funding from UK Athletics, forcing her to balance the strict training regime with a full-time job as a custody detention officer at the Police Investigation Centre in Great Yarmouth.
"It is pretty difficult. If I didn't love it as much as I do, then the financial side would probably bother me," she said.
"It's really important for me to enjoy it and not worry about that because hopefully that will come when I get to the Olympics and get that exposure."
For McKinna, shining a light on the shot put is crucial to help dispel the myths surrounding the sport and its athletes.
"Shot putters, or throwers in general, are perceived as these people who sit at home, eat a lot, are lazy and don't do a lot of training. But actually, it's the complete opposite - we have to be real all-round athletes.
"Nobody, especially no female, wants to be 18.5 stone. It's not a life choice I would choose for myself. But to me, that's the sacrifice you make for your sport.
"People don't understand the background of shot put and the need to be slightly heavier.
"It's a body image thing and people judge you by looking at you rather than really understanding what you do and the training it takes to get where you are."
With an 11th-place finish in the World Championships final, McKinna knows there's a lot more hard work to be done to bridge the gap between her and those at the top.
"I want to go there and be competitive, I make no secret about that. I want to win a medal. Tokyo will be tough but stranger things have happened.
"I made the World Championships final so there's a good enough chance for me to make the Olympics final and who knows what can happen."
Off the back of her World Championship success, McKinna admits she's been recognised by a few people brought in to the detention centre. In the build-up to Tokyo, she wants to continue to raise the profile of the sport and inspire others to take part.
"Hopefully I can inspire young girls who aren't necessarily the smallest of children, or are strong and powerful but don't really know what sport is for them. It's nice for them to be able to watch me on the television and think yeah actually, I could do that."