We talked to Katharine Merry – Olympic 400m Bronze Medallist to ask her what it was like for her when he started out in sport…
Did you choose your sport or did your parents choose it for you?
My decision, I chose to get into Athletics as a neighbour, a local PE teacher, pointed out I was pretty quick. My dad also had a small influence as he was still an Athlete in Triple Jump and had competed more seriously when he was younger.
Were they actively supportive of you doing the sport?
Yes, my parents were very supportive in every which way, I had already done Gymnastics and they were taking me every week, I then moved into Athletics and stopped Gymnastics. I was doing Athletics 3 times a week so I needed a lot of transport and time from my parents; however, it reignited my dad’s passion, which meant I had even more support.
When did you start training regularly?
I started training at 10/11 years old at Rugby Athletics Club. I was 13 when I got my first international vest and went full time at age 18.
Did your parents ever think being a professional sportsperson would be a good career for you?
They never said it wouldn’t be and they were always supportive. They wanted me to have a good balance between school and training. Travelling oversees whilst at school made things a little more difficult.
Were you aware of the sacrifices your parents made for you? What were they?
Yes very aware, even at a young age. I was totally aware of their support and I needed to be taken to training as I was so young. At age 13, I had to go even further to training 3 times a week so they were very supportive. All this whilst looking after my brother, who wasn’t an Athlete.
How difficult is it/was it to balance sport and school?
Quite easy, however I had the support system from high school and was allowed time off. I made many good relationships and I am very appreciative of the support I was given from teachers and peers.
Did your training ever affect your school work; is this something that your parents were worried about?
Worked hard at school so it was quite easy, I didn’t go to university and as I got older I started a work placement built around Athletics so I was quite lucky in that respect. My parents were happy and there was no negativity.
What did Sport give you as a child?
Confidence mainly, it was quite cool as was talented and this made me more popular at school. There was a little jealousy but overall sport was a positive for me as I was growing up. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people and learn from their experience. Sport has given me a wider outlook on life and the opportunity to travel and have many life experiences. I am still working in sport and 99% of all stuff I do now is based on what I did in sport, which was life changing really.
Would you encourage you children to take part in sport professionally?
Yes definitely as long as they have the right attitude and talent. I suppose I would have the same attitude as my parents, however, it is important to have a backup plan in case of injury or loss of interest. Kids should not put all their eggs in one basket and they need to sometimes be realistic and stay focused at school. I would never discourage them.
Do you think it’s a good idea for a child to focus on one main sport straight away?
No, I did that to a degree but it’s good to mix up the events and I wish I had stayed in other events a little longer.
Athletics gives kids strength, coordination and speed which is a basis that enables them to move into other sports and take their opportunities. Other sports can learn from Athletics in this respect. In an ideal world you would like them to enjoy lots of different sports but it takes time and money and isn’t easy. It is also important kids do sports they enjoy and they should make use of the different seasons so they can enjoy different sports.