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Phyllis Agbo (Trinity 2004)

Copyright Boris Austin Subject: Natural Sciences
Sport: Athletics

Hoping to qualify for: Women’s Heptathalon

Team: GB

Image Copyright Boris Austin

Pre-competition ritual: “I always pack my kit the night before, and make sure I’ve got all the right equipment – never on the day, because I’m quite forgetful!”

“I was interested in sport from a very early age. I did tennis and basketball, and my school was big on cricket – I represented Middlesex for three years running, and trained with the county team. But I ended up realising that cricket wasn’t really for me. I’d taken up athletics at about 12 or 13, and began to concentrate on that, joining a club.

I realised that I could take athletics to the highest level when I got my first GB vest, at the age of 15. That was at the European Youth Olympic Festival. It was the first time I’d been away from home for a few weeks to compete, and I loved the experience. I chose the Heptathlon because the training is varied and I never get bored. I’m one of those people who wants to try everything, and being able to consolidate all these disciplines into one event is perfect for me.

Doing athletics at Cambridge was a great test of time management. I’d have maybe two lectures in the morning, then would have to take an early lunch before a training session. Then there would be labs in the afternoon, another training session, revision and doing work for supervisions. I’d have to go to weekend training camps in places like Sheffield – but in Natural Sciences, we had Saturday lectures. My dictaphone became my best friend, and I’d give it to friends to record the lectures I had to miss.

The track at Cambridge didn’t have floodlights in those days. So in the winter, if you wanted to train late in the afternoon, you had to do it in the dark. But I had a friend two years above me at Emmanuel, Grace Clements, who was also a heptathlete. We made a great twosome at the Varsity Match, and she’s now training full-time as well.

It was hard work, but things like that bring out your true character. You realise how much you want to achieve your goals, and you do what you have to do. I’m now training at the high-performance centre in Lea Valley, north London, and getting down to the task of making sure I’ll be at the starting line at the Olympics.

With the Games coming to Britain, you might think that there would be more pressure, but I think the excitement far outweighs that. We have to turn the pressure into positive energy, and use it to aid our performance.”