Were you sporty when you were younger?
Yes, I started racing when I was seven and the London mini-marathon was the first thing that I tried. I just did that for a bit of fun really and got the bug. Then I competed in the 100m for my borough in the London Youth Games a year or two afterwards. The event was quite competitive and after that it just developed from there.
When did you start to become involved with the GB team?
At quite a young age really. I was about 13 when I made my international debut in Ireland and I was racing with the seniors and beating them. I was in with everyone else and they obviously saw a talent. I used to race against the juniors sometimes but when we had our National Championships I always raced against the seniors because the juniors were too slow for me.
You have competed in sprinting and long distance events; how difficult is it to combine the two?
I haven’t competed in sprinting for a while. Beijing was the last time I did 400m at a major championship but I’ve mini-retired from sprinting. I’ve done some this year to see if I could compete against the best in the world – and I could – but it’s a lot of effort to do five events in London so I’m choosing the events I’m better at, and that’s long distance. In London I’m planning on doing the 800m, 1,500m, 5km and the marathon.
It’s very impressive to win medals at both long distance and sprinting; is this normal in your sport?
It is unusual, but it’s like cycling where you’ll see Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France and also on the track in shorter distances. It was just because I was pretty good at sprinting and although my starts weren’t as good as other people's, I did win World Championships and Paralympic medals. Training wise, the reason I did the marathons when I was sprinting was because during the winter I used to do a lot of endurance-based work anyway so it was already in my training programme. It is rare to see someone doing long distance and sprinting, but I was capable, so I did it.
What is your training programme like?
Obviously it changes throughout the year. At the moment I’m doing my winter programme so I’m back in the gym twice a week and gradually building up to lifting heavy weights and doing as many miles as I can on the road. I have people study my oxygen and lactate intake, do some altitude training and, if I do go on the track, then I tend to do fartlek sessions. This stays the same until around February because of the London marathon. I then slowly cut down on mileage and, after the marathon, it’s track work because of a busy schedule over the summer months so I need to be pretty sharp on speed and starts. I seem to train how I race; the intensity is high.
What’s your proudest sporting moment?
Probably the last World Championships in New Zealand. People had been writing me off because Swiss competitor Marcel Hug had broken my records at the beginning of the season so it was nice to go there and come away with three gold medals.
What are your personal ambitions for London 2012?
One gold will be enough for me. I don’t think about winning four gold medals because, with the current competition around the world, you can never go into a competition and say you are going to win. People are saying I’m going to come away with four gold medals which I don’t think is fair and right as the sport is very competitive.
Do you think the profile of Paralympic sport will be raised after 2012?
Yes, but I hope it’s not just because it’s in London. Ticket sales have gone in record numbers which is great to see but I hope we get supporters after the games and for the next generation. I do think there will be a legacy and we’ll see more Olympic and Paralympic champions in Rio 2016.
This feature was first printed in the December/January 2012 issue of Fitpro Network magazine.