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Angie’s return gives message of hope to other injury victims

BACK IN BUSINESS: Angie Underdown won three medals on her return to individual competitive action at Southend (3562482)
BACK IN BUSINESS: Angie Underdown won three medals on her return to individual competitive action at Southend (3562482)

Following her weekend achievements, Angie Underdown’s message to other athletes knocked sideways by serious injury or ill health is simple: ‘Never give up’.

After breaking her back and then seeing her long-awaited comeback from that as an athlete derailed by a heart attack, she admits she never thought she would be clutching new medals on a track again.

But that is exactly what happened for the Bardwell resident in the EMAC Championships (Eastern Masters) in Southend on Saturday as a reborn race walker.

Through Facebook she also realised the happy coincidence of the timing; it being exactly 10 years to the day she picked up bronze in the 400m European Masters Outdoor Championships in Slovenia.

“It was just great to be back and I would say it shows you must never, never give up,” she said.

The 52-year-old took away medals across three different events on Saturday in the Over-50s category; the 2k race walk and 100 and 200 metres sprint event. But she says she is only really counting the former as she was the only one in her category in the 200 and only one of two in the 100, whereas the race walk saw her up against a field of around 20.

Not only was Underdown (nee Alstrachan) able to celebrate her return by winning, her time of 13 minutes and 22.5 seconds in the race walk catapulted her into the UK rankings.

“I actually started off at 17.40,” said the athlete now back training under good friend Mick Graham and Ron Wallwork at the West Suffolk Arena at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre alongside talented race walking brothers Callum and George Wilkinson.

“They (coaches) said if I got under 14 (secs) it would be good.

“I won the 200 and 100 as well but that wasn’t really against anyone, so I am not really counting those.

“It was just good to be back running in those, actually 10 years ago on the day I won the 400m hurdles in Slovakia.”

She added: “After I broke my back I could not run, but in 2009 I came back but had a heart attack in 2012.

“I had done nothing (competition-wise) since, apart from getting myself back physically and mentally.”

Underdown said it was a chance meeting with a former competitor in a supermarket that got her back to competitive action back in May, as part of a team event with the Masters squad who compete under the West Suffolk & Pacers umbrella, combining the town’s athletics and running clubs.

“Christine Anthony came over to me in Sainsbury’s and said would I come along and help out in the Braintree League mid-week meetings.

“To be honest I did not really want to, but it gave me the umph to come back.”

Taking on all the throwing events, including shott putt, javelin and hammer, Underdown helped the team to the finals day of the competition, which will be held in Milton Keynes next month.

As for targets going forward from now, the Bardwell-based athlete says she is not making any yet, though does harbour future ambitions of competing in the British Masters, possibly next year.

l Meanwhile, Underdown’s training partner Callum Wilkinson had a weekend to forget at the European Athletics Championships in the German capital of Berlin with the ex-Bury schoolboy disqualified in Saturday’s 20km showpiece race.

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