Hammer hero Sophie Hitchon’s influence is catapulting throwing hotshot Charlotte Payne on a tantalising Olympic journey.
The Reading ace first started athletics at just six years old and after opting to specialise in hammer, has always looked up to 2016 Rio bronze medallist Hitchon.
Hitchon, 29, set the British national record at those Games in Brazil and Berkshire star Payne says she’s hellbent on following in her footsteps.
Payne, 19, said: “Obviously the Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport so it’s the ultimate dream for myself and many other athletes.
“I would also love to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year. That’s a big goal as I would be one of the youngest female throwers to ever go but I’m working hard to reach it.
“Competing for Great Britain is always an honour and it’s something I dreamed about since I started.”
Payne has already donned the GB vest, competing in the Under-20 European Championships in 2019 and finishing in seventh-place.
She also claimed a silver medal in the hammer with a mark of 63.92m at the Müller British Athletics Championships last September, moving to second in the UK all-time Under-20 rankings behind Hitchon.
Payne’s throwing career is financially supported by a partnership between Entain – owner of Ladbrokes and Coral – and SportsAid, set up in 2019 and part of the company’s innovative Pitching In initiative.
The sustained assistance helps her access funding for training, travel, equipment and mentoring as she bids to emulate Hitchon and scale the Olympic heights.
Payne also has the support of her coach, Paul Dickenson – who has competed in a pair of Olympic and Commonwealth Games – and was also selected to be part of the Olympic Futures Academy Programme late last year.
She added: “I have loved being a part of the Olympic Futures Programme.
“Although most of it has been virtual so far, having a dedicated mentor working with you and helping you to strengthen the weak areas of your training has been so beneficial.
“It just helps you to become more aware of everything you do in your sport and live a more athletic lifestyle.
“Also being a part of a programme alongside so many world record holders and international champions is so motivating and inspirational.
“I knew of Paul [coach] as one of the best hammer throwing coaches in the country and he had coached so many athletes to an amazing level.
“He is actually my sporting hero. I wish I can achieve as much as he has.”
Payne was also diagnosed as being profoundly deaf when she was just three years old and is now the first deaf person to be selected for the Great Britain athletics team.
And she said: “A lot of my competitors still don’t even know [that I am deaf].
“It just shows that being deaf doesn’t have to stop you from competing and excelling in sport.
“SportsAid is incredibly helpful as it helps me to invest in equipment for my sport. The funding will go towards a new hammer for competition as well as new rotationals to help me get faster and achieve bigger distances.”