As we continue our countdown to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which is 52 weeks away, sports reporter SAM MURLEY caught up with Bury St Edmunds race walker Angie Alstrachen ahead of her quest for glory.
GETTING a second chance in life is an extremely rare thing, but for Angie Alstrachen her second chance could lead her all the way to the Greatest sporting showcase in the world, the Olympic Games.
Just a year ago Alstrachen, from Bury St Edmunds, was left devestated after tripping over a hurdle at a European Championships in Belgium, which cruelly put an end to her athletics career due to the injuries she sustained to her back and legs.
Looking at the possibility of never competing again, a chance conversation between Alstrachen and coach Mick Graham, left the 46 year-old once again dreaming of walking out at the opening ceremony to represent her country as a race walker as the clock counts down to London 2012 in under a year’s time.
“The Olympics was once a dream of mine when I was doing the hurdles years ago,” said Alstrachen.
“It started out as a bit of a joke because I had stitches all the way down my leg and I couldn’t run. Mick Graham said to me why don’t you be a race walker. I set the county record in the 3k track event in a time of 20 minutes 12 seconds which was really strange, at the time we saw it as a possible sign for the Olympics.
“I didnt see race walking as an alternative route to the Olympics to begin with but it is a sport that is not age related. Realistically I knew sprinting was out of the question and not possible mentally or physically because I was getting older but with endurance disciplines it doesn’t matter.
“To go to the Olympics would be amazing and a dream come true,I want to be there for my family. I have never been close to going before so it would be amazing, it is something I won’t be giving up on no matter what age. I am lucky to have come into another sport that could give me that chance of going to the Games and has given me that second opportunity.”
It has been quite a transformation to go from winning sprinting events over 100 or 200 metres to race walking anything from 20k to 100 miles but that is exactly what Alstrachen has achieved in a relatively short space of time. Taking up the sport in April 2010 she has continued to excell and break more records.
“I did extremely well in the 20k last year which is the Olympic distance,” explained Alstrachen.
“Training is completely different to what I used to do. Everything I was taught as a sprinter is reversed and the reason I can race walk but not sprint anymore is because it comes from the hips rather than pushing off with the legs and feet.
“I have broken the county record again knocking two minutes and a second off my time, and race walking is something I have become passionate about.”
Despite conquering the Centurion 100 miles, Alstrachen is now facing her greateast challenge of qualifying for the Great Britain Olympic team. Only the top two ranked race walkers will qualify, but the former St Edmunds Pacers member, is remaining focused on fulfilling the opportunity she has been gifted with.
She added: “You never know what can happen in a year, nobody knows. If I can stay injury free, which I should, then anything is possible, I have a lot to learn but atleast I am going in the right direction.
“My aim and focus right now is just to qualify and make the team and that is it. Obviously you dream of winning a medal but we will see if I manage to qualify for the team. I just want to be part of it and be there at the opening ceremony.”