Katy Sexton

Katy Sexton

Katy Sexton became the first British woman to win a world championship gold medal back in 2003 but has since struggled to recapture that form - suffering from over training syndrome.

I caught up with to see how her training was going and what lies ahead for her over the next few months as she prepares for the Olympic trials

- It’s been a while since we have seen you compete for Great Britain in the pool so how would you assess the shape that you are in at the moment?

Pretty good actually, I have had a couple of years of injuries; one just seemed to snowball after the other. But I like to keep in the water if I have an injury, I overcompensate in another area and then that goes downhill so that has been my issue over the last few years.

But I am in a good place at the moment and am feeling very positive and just trying to get back into some hard graft this side of Christmas.

- So how do you feel that your training is going? With a year to go until the Olympics do you feel that things are going well?

Yes I do - it’s been one of those things that I have to learn to adjust as I have got older as recovery time is more important to me than all the intensity. 

When you have one really good year you ten to compare everything to that so it’s just trying to adjust to what works for me at twenty nine not what worked for me at twenty one.

- You became the first British woman to win a world championship gold medal back in 2003 so how would you sum up that experience when you look back on it now? And how much has that success spurred you on during the hard times?

It is a tough one of me really because I don’t think I have appreciated what I have achieved. So now and again people tell me ‘get your medal out a have a look at it and watch the video and make yourself feel good’ - and now and again I will do that and when  you are having those down days you just think yes actually all that hard work and getting up early is worth it.

- You were also given an MBE for your achievements in Barcelona - so how surprised were you to be recognised like that? And how nice was it to go and receive the medal?

It was amazing; I never thought that that would happen. I had this letter and I was like ‘this has come from the Queen what is this all about?’ And I opened it and it was like ‘this is top secret don’t tell anyone’ and I was like ‘oh my god I can’t keep secrets.’

So that was really amazing, and to only be twenty one when I received it you don’t really know many other people that young who have achieved such an accolade. It was a phenomenal experience.

- Since then you have had your struggles as you have suffered with over training syndrome and depression so just how difficult a couple of years has it been for you?

Really difficult actually and I think that the over training syndrome was the start of it all and then it gradually slipped into a depression.

But when you are in that situation you don’t ever recognise it yourself until you have acknowledged that there is something wrong - you look back and you think ‘yeah, I can see it now’.

But it does take a while; you have to fall so far down a hole until you reach the bottom to actually see what is going on.

After Athens, when I was diagnosed with the over training, it was straight off the back of a fantastic world championships in ’03 and you are suddenly on a fast moving train and you just want to look forward and do better and better and better - you don’t ever think of a Plan B if it goes wrong. 

- Can you explain what over training syndrome is and just how that has impacted on you and your training?

Basically when you train you get a training effect, you fatigue, but I could never recover fully enough to train harder again. So instead of my graph going down and then up and then down again it just went down up a bit and then down a bit more - it was working negatively instead of positively. It’s hard to explain.

- But the London 2012 Games are now less than a year away so how excited are you about a home games?

It will be amazing! One of my first experiences was at the Youth Olympics, which is a mini Olympics, in Bath, a home Olympics as such; and it was great experience.

It was just a fantastic experience being part of the opening ceremony and walking through the streets of Bath with everyone out watching - if that could be repeated on a big scale like London it would be a dream come true to be there.

- You swam in front of a home crowd at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester back in 2002 so how did you find the whole home crowd experience?

It’s amazing! I have been to the Sydney Games and the atmosphere there, where swimming is their number one sport, was phenomenal but when it is your home crowd as well it does blow the roof off.

You do feel like you have this extra bit in you, you think that you have to swim better because these are my people.

- You missed out on going to Beijing so how much is that a drive to make the GB team next year - and what do you think you are capable of achieving in London should all the training go to plan?

I am probably in one of the toughest events I have got some really strong girls and strong competition in the UK so that’s why I didn’t quite make the team in Beijing - I did everything that I needed to do it was just that they take two people and I was the third.

It’s tough because you train for four yeas for something and then you fail at the last hurdle really. But looking forward London my training is going well at the moment, I am in a good place mentally and I am just looking forward and trying to stay positive and hoping that I will get on the team and readjusting from there.  

- The women’s side of the GB team is very strong at the moment so how good is it to have that domestic competition?

I think it actually spurs you on even more it keeps you on your toes because it’s not the same people winning time after time it’s always ‘is it going to be her? Or is it going to be her?’ - so it’s really close and it makes you raise you game that little bit more I think.

-  And swimming is going to be one of the main attractions at the Game so what do you hope that the London Olympics will do for the sport in this country?

You can already see that its profile has been raised after Beijing with Big Splash coming on board, David Walliams is swimming the Thames at the moment, I think it just is definitely raising the profile that swimming is a good sport to do.

It might not have a competition ever week like football or cricket but when there is a competition it’s good fun, there’s a great atmosphere and it’s great to watch.

- The tickets for the Olympics have been really popular - with many of the events already sold out so how much of a boost does that give you as an athlete?

If the stadium is full it will be brilliant! You want to go there and swim in front of the biggest crowd that you are ever going to swim in front of and if it’s all mainly home people then it will be even better.

- We saw the facilities on the TV just a couple of weeks ago….

They look amazing don’t they?

- They look fabulous. So have you had the chance to get down there yet and take a look?

They look absolutely awesome. No I haven’t had that opportunity yet but I think our trials are being held at that actual pool so that will be great. It just adds to the excitement because you get there and think ’wow this is it’.

 - With the Olympic Games just around the corner there is a big push hot get kids into sport you run your own swimming academy so what advice would you give to kids who want to get into the sport?

Just look around you local area and just find out what is going on in your local area and what is available to you. Have a try at different sports and you might find one that you are good at.

- As I say you have set up your own swimming academy so what were the reasons behind that?

Basically I have born and live in Portsmouth all my life and my parents wanted me and my sister to swim because we live by the sea. So having had the great support of my local community I just wanted to offer them something back - so by setting up my own academy that’s kind of it really/

- Finally what’s next for you over the next few months?

Over the next few months it’s just going to be some really serious and hard training, lots of early night and early mornings as well as lots of sleeping and eating (laughs).

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

Katy Sexton became the first British woman to win a world championship gold medal back in 2003 but has since struggled to recapture that form - suffering from over training syndrome.

I caught up with to see how her training was going and what lies ahead for her over the next few months as she prepares for the Olympic trials

- It’s been a while since we have seen you compete for Great Britain in the pool so how would you assess the shape that you are in at the moment?

Pretty good actually, I have had a couple of years of injuries; one just seemed to snowball after the other. But I like to keep in the water if I have an injury, I overcompensate in another area and then that goes downhill so that has been my issue over the last few years.

But I am in a good place at the moment and am feeling very positive and just trying to get back into some hard graft this side of Christmas.

- So how do you feel that your training is going? With a year to go until the Olympics do you feel that things are going well?

Yes I do - it’s been one of those things that I have to learn to adjust as I have got older as recovery time is more important to me than all the intensity. 

When you have one really good year you ten to compare everything to that so it’s just trying to adjust to what works for me at twenty nine not what worked for me at twenty one.

- You became the first British woman to win a world championship gold medal back in 2003 so how would you sum up that experience when you look back on it now? And how much has that success spurred you on during the hard times?

It is a tough one of me really because I don’t think I have appreciated what I have achieved. So now and again people tell me ‘get your medal out a have a look at it and watch the video and make yourself feel good’ - and now and again I will do that and when  you are having those down days you just think yes actually all that hard work and getting up early is worth it.

- You were also given an MBE for your achievements in Barcelona - so how surprised were you to be recognised like that? And how nice was it to go and receive the medal?

It was amazing; I never thought that that would happen. I had this letter and I was like ‘this has come from the Queen what is this all about?’ And I opened it and it was like ‘this is top secret don’t tell anyone’ and I was like ‘oh my god I can’t keep secrets.’

So that was really amazing, and to only be twenty one when I received it you don’t really know many other people that young who have achieved such an accolade. It was a phenomenal experience.

- Since then you have had your struggles as you have suffered with over training syndrome and depression so just how difficult a couple of years has it been for you?

Really difficult actually and I think that the over training syndrome was the start of it all and then it gradually slipped into a depression.

But when you are in that situation you don’t ever recognise it yourself until you have acknowledged that there is something wrong - you look back and you think ‘yeah, I can see it now’.

But it does take a while; you have to fall so far down a hole until you reach the bottom to actually see what is going on.

After Athens, when I was diagnosed with the over training, it was straight off the back of a fantastic world championships in ’03 and you are suddenly on a fast moving train and you just want to look forward and do better and better and better - you don’t ever think of a Plan B if it goes wrong. 

- Can you explain what over training syndrome is and just how that has impacted on you and your training?

Basically when you train you get a training effect, you fatigue, but I could never recover fully enough to train harder again. So instead of my graph going down and then up and then down again it just went down up a bit and then down a bit more - it was working negatively instead of positively. It’s hard to explain.

- But the London 2012 Games are now less than a year away so how excited are you about a home games?


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