Heptathlete Niamh Emerson is getting ready to make up for lost time
The young British star’s resilience has come to the fore as she builds on her setbacks to lay a strong foundation for 2022 championship glory.
Niamh Emerson won the 2018 world junior title, then grabbed bronze for England in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and silver in the 2019 European Indoor Championships to follow in the footsteps of great British heptathletes such as champions Denise Lewis, Kelly Sotherton and Jessica Ennis-Hill, along with reigning world indoor and outdoor champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
The last couple of years, however, have been more frustrating for the 22-year-old due to injuries and the ongoing global situation. Refusing to be thwarted, though, she’s used the time to sit back, reflect and learn the valuable lessons she needs to win medals in a busy 2022 packed with championship action.
She revealed, "I genuinely have learned so much. I'm such a different athlete than I was in 2020. It's a really weird little mini battle I'm having with myself. I do believe it'll be fine. I don't believe I ever had the opportunity to just start from scratch, completely healthy and build. I'm super, super focused for next year. My goal is the home Commonwealth Games and to go to the 2022 World Championships in Oregon.
"I'm the biggest optimist. I would really like to be a coach because of everything I've learned, even just in the last eight months. I literally lived out of a bag for three months. Many people do this all the time but, when you're training and trying to organise your life, it was so tiring. Now I'm back in love… I have tough decisions to make at my age because I'm trying to plan for 2024 – that’s my ultimate goal."
It’s been a competitive whirlwind for Emerson since she was a child, with her initial focus on running before she switched to the multi-event format in pentathlon and then heptathlon.
She explained, "I started athletics when I was nine, because of my mum who was a runner. I had way too much energy and was really annoying. Mum was like, 'You need to burn some energy', so she would take me on all of her runs. I was a runner - 800 metres and 1,500 metres… I tried doing a pentathlon in 2013, I got an England schools vest at 14 and I just never looked back. I went from one day of five events to a two-day heptathlon of seven events."
After winning world junior gold in Finland three years ago, Emerson suffered a serious knee injury in a meet at Götzis in Austria, partially tearing her patella. Emerson, though, did not let this setback get her down and tried to make the best of the subsequent period.
I'm such a different athlete than I was in 2020. It's a really weird little mini battle I'm having with myself.
She declared, “Athletes train all day, every day – we need a track, gym, weights, physio and equipment. It's so difficult to train from home. I was fortunate enough to live within walking distance of a golf course, so I did a lot of grass work.”
A January training stint in Dubai was the next step in the road to recovery and, even though she picked up a hamstring injury, it helped her gain more useful perspectives on her career progress.
She added, "We went to Dubai and it was such a nice break away. We'd go into town and have food and it was normal life – restaurants were open, pools were open. It was nice to just go to the beach and go for coffee. I went for three weeks. I was really unfortunate to tear my hamstring on day five of Dubai, so I spent the next two weeks just rehabbing. I came back from Dubai and kind of reevaluated a lot of things."
The 2022 Commonwealth Games leads off the chance to elevate her profile even further next year in Birmingham, England, before the 2022 World Athletics Championships roll out in Eugene, Oregon and the European Championships Munich across August 2022.