IT TAKES a special sort of determination to defy poor form and find a performance amid the claustrophobia of euphoric, expectant home support.
Christine Ohuruogu’s 400m silver at the 2012 London Olympic Games was nothing short of astonishing.
Written off entirely following a set of indifferent results, she maintained faith in her world-beating ability and flew through the final straight to ransack the podium. In the end, a repeat of the sensational gold she won in Beijing was just 0.15 seconds away.
Given the scale of that achievement – and the fact that it took place about a mile from where Ohuruogu grew up – the 28-year-old would be forgiven for sentimental reflection.
But that’s not her style. Based in Florida until May for a warm weather lead up to the new season, Ohuruogu has moved on. Looking back on her third Olympics, the pervading emotion is relief rather than self-satisfaction.
“Every athlete had waited for the Olympics for seven long years,” she says. “Once they had gone, it was a nice surprise that the world didn’t collapse. There was life afterwards – the sun rose again and you carried on working.
“The notion of a home Games was what made it so difficult – the support was amazing but the pressure was, too.
“For me, London was the hardest thing I will ever have to deal with in my career and I can now go on with my life and move on. I am in a completely different headspace now.”
If Ohuruogu seems stoical in retrospect, an uncompromising competitive spark is not far below the surface. Sure enough, it emerges quite quickly at the mention of critics.
“My medal was testament to self-belief,” she says. “I read all the reports and heard the commentaries – nobody thought I could do it.
“That just proved to me that you shouldn’t even listen to what others say – the only people that matter are the ones that believe in you.
“Having said that, I came to win and defend my title. I didn’t manage that, which is something I’ll never forget.
“I certainly went there and did best job I could have done on the day, though.”
Although admitting that a main reason for the West Coast camp is to ensure competitors do not leave her behind, Ohuruogu is reluctant to discuss any rivalry with Sanya Richards-Ross, the American who triumphed in London.
Such a relaxed, non-confrontational facade may alter as August and the World Championships in Moscow come closer, bringing a chance to enhance an already heaving haul of major honours. But calm is on the agenda for now.
Beginning 2013 with a gentle run-out over 60m and 200m at Sheffield’s UK trials, the start of this month brought encouraging success at the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg.
The senior statesmen of a victorious 4x400m team that included Eilidh Child, Shana Cox and the exciting Perri Shakes-Drayton, Ohuruogu was just as delighted with the strong showing of her teammates in the individual event.
“I was really proud of the girls over the whole weekend,” she smiles. “Perri won the gold, Eilidh got the silver and Shana made the final.
“It was a tough ask for them to run the relay just a couple of hours after the final – it was really gruelling and they did a super job.”
Somewhat self-effacing – her third leg was pivotal as Great Britain’s girls held off Russia – Ohuruogu seems in ambassadorial mode. Even with a major meet such as Russia on the horizon, she insists that the day-to-day with coach Lloyd Cowan is enough to keep her motivated.
So will this prolonged training period impart a tactical change as Cowan has already suggested, doing away with Ohuruogu’s tendency to start slow and haul her way back with 50m to go? The cards are close to the chest on this one.
“I am fortunate enough to have made it to three Olympic Games, winning two medals,” Ohuruogu finishes boldly. “That’s a hard enough feat in itself.
“I trust Lloyd, so if he thinks something should be changed, that’s great. But one of his sayings is ‘If it isn’t broken, why fix it?’”