PARALYMPIC silver medallist and world champion sprinter, Libby Clegg, returned to her childhood home this week to inspire and encourage local youngsters to lead a healthy lifestyle.
The track star, who is registered as blind due to a deteriorating eye condition, took time out from her hectic training schedule ahead of the London 2012 Paralympic Games to visit Denholm Primary School as part of Border Sport and Leisure Trust’s Active Schools Champions in Schools initiative.
Speaking to TheSouthern after the visit, Libby said: “The kids were lovely and had done lots of research, which made it really enjoyable. They had brilliant questions for me to answer. If my visit motivates just one person to adopt a sporting or healthier lifestyle, I’ll be delighted.”
Libby, who was brought up in Newcastleton, has recently returned from South Africa where she has been undergoing some rigorous warm-weather training which she will continue in the run-up to the Games, with two visits to Portugal.
In between , she will continue to train six days a week close to her new home in Loughborough, where she moved in 2009 in order to access better training facilities at the sporting town’s High Performance Athlete Centre.
“The facilities are amazing and all my support services are under one roof which makes it very easy for me to access them,” she explained.
“I try to come up once a month to see my family and friends who are a great support to me. They all like to know what I’m doing and keep up to date on my training and competitions. They are all very understanding of my lifestyle which helps a lot as I’m not always able to come up and see them as often as I would like.”
This isn’t the first time the Borders youngster has looked forward to a Paralympic Games.
In 2008, Libby was selected for the Beijing event where she ran the T12 100m and 200m. In the 100m Libby came away with a silver medal and a new personal best time, but in the 200m, she wasn’t as fortunate and finished in sixth place.
She told us: “When I was younger I never imagined that I would ever compete a Paralympic Games, I didn’t think I would even make it to an international standard. After competing in Beijing I knew that I would carry on to compete in London 2012. The four years in between the games has come round so quickly and I can’t believe we are nearly there already.”
At the 2011 IPC World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, Libby continued to improve on her previous successes with some fantastic performances. In the T12 200m she took the bronze medal with guide runner Lincoln Asquith.
Finally, Libby achieved one of her life ambitions of finishing first in the T12 100m with new guide runner, Mikail Huggins, Asquith’s stepson, in a time of 12.73 seconds, to beat Hana Kolnikova by 0.02 seconds and become the new world champion.
Looking ahead, Libby told us: “In July we have selection, this will be when we find out whether we have made the team. If this happens then I’ll be preparing to go into the holding camp before the Games and then into the village. I think to win a medal at a home games would be an extra special experience as I would get to share it with my family and friends as most of them have been able to get tickets to come and watch me race.”
Huggins is likely to be guiding Libby if she makes it to London, with Asquith as a back-up.
In the meantime, the 21-year-old remains totally focused on the job in hand.
“I try and just focus on what I am doing and what I need to do to get where I want to be,” she said.
Last week , Libby received a timely boost ahead of the London 2012 Games with the announcement of a new sponsorship deal with ESPC, the leader in property marketing for east central Scotland.
Currently training full-time thanks to Lottery funding, Libby believes the extra support will bolster her efforts to go for gold in London.
She said: “I’m delighted to be working with ESPC, whose additional support provides me with the security needed to ensure everything is focused on achieving my goals.
One of the key components of the sponsorship is a community-based promotional campaign, which sets out to harvest local support for the sprinter and “Team Libby” .
ESPC marketing manager, Neil Harrison, explained: “Team Libby is something we are looking to promote to build up support from across the Borders and further afield.”
Anyone can join the team at www.espc.com/teamlibby