Beyond the games
Poorna Bell, editor, MSN Her
Updated: 29/08/2012 09:15 | By Poorna Bell, editor, MSN Her

The interview: Paralympic sprinter Sophia Warner

The athlete talks to us about ice-cream, sacrifice and just exactly what is in her training bag


Sophia Warner at the London Disability Grand Prix (© Andy Davies_PA Images)

Sophia Warner at the London Disability Grand Prix

In her category - the T35 100m and 200m races - Sophia Warner is ranked number one in Europe and number two in the world. Most of us struggle to fit the gym in with a working life but Sophia, who has cerebral palsy, has grafted to be a top athlete as well as a super-mum. How on earth does she do it? MSN Her caught up with Sophia in between training to ask her a few questions.

You were a marketing manager and took a sabbatical to train full-time - any advice for women who want to follow their dreams?
I'm definitely an example of how it can work - you know, leaving work to pursue something you really want. At first, it was terrifying - I lost a decent salary and I was the only one working in the family. But, you have to accumulate to speculate. For a year, I struggled - I worked hard and trained hard. I grafted and was exhausted but I had to become world class. I took a big gamble but it was calculated.

People say to me: "You're living the dream" but it was a lot of sacrifice and hard work. And, it could've gone the other way - I could've had a bad season and that would've been disastrous, but I didn't, and I'd like to think that was down to all the work I put in.

What does it take to be an Olympic athlete?
I think you have to be a cross between being really persistent and a dreamer. The dream doesn't look or seem possible but if you put in the work, it is. You have to ignore what everyone else says.

How you juggle work and home life?
Planning - I never go to bed without a list. I'm hugely competitive mum to my daughter Lucca, 7, and my son Felix, 6, - not against other mums but in terms of how I am as a mum. Homework for instance, is important. I could be selfish and think just about my career but in my mind, I know what needs doing for the kids.

My husband Haydn is a great support but - and this may not sound great - even if men take over, they just don't worry about the same things. He'll take them to school, make sure they've had dinner, but won't check if their school shoes are worn out or if they've read a certain book for homework.

What's in your training bag?
Let me have a rummage. Okay, always my spikes, Soltan sunblock stick, lip sunblock, water bottle, protein bar, carbohydrate bar. Almost every single type of outfit you can imagine - from short shorts to long shorts. Stretching band. I-pod, woolly hat, a lipgloss, a dried-out mascara and one of children's cuddly toys, Mr Carrot.

Do you wear make-up when running?
I never used to but a competitive runner at a race once advised me to, so I wear No7 lip balm and mascara.

Sophia Warner (© Boots)

How do you feel about the coverage of sportswomen in the media? Or lack of?
I think that being an Olympic year it's hard to comment. The Games have given a big boost to female sportswomen but largely it's the personalities that get coverage, and at this moment, we do have big ones on male side. And that's normally how it goes.

Did you ever know you'd be an athlete?
I'm 37 and if you'd told me when I was doing my GCSEs, I'd have thought I was more likely to work in the circus! Being disabled and an athlete just wasn't done back then.

What do your kids think of your success?
I don't think they really get it. I went home and told them when I broke the European record. My daughter has practiced her response and so she said 'wow', and then asked me what it was. My son's response was to show me his drawing. I keep cuttings and will show them later, one day.

Any secret splurges?
One is bubbly - but after half a glass I'm dried out and asleep on the sofa. Oh, and ice-cream. I love it.

What will you do when not competing at the Paralympics?
I'm an athlete but I do what working mums do - I do the odd school run and normal mum stuff.

I will go back to my day job. Trying to juggle both was a challenge, and previously I worked in an industry that had no relation to sport. After the Paralympics, I'm actually going to be working as a commercial director for UK Athletics and it'll be easier as I'll know some of the people there and they'll know that I'm training.

Sophia is dedicating her training miles to the Boots Miles for Macmillan campaign. Visit the website to find out more about the campaign and to get involved.

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