Kelly Sotherton is on a mission to get Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson to emulate Usain Bolt by sprinkling stardust on the Commonwealth Games.
Britain’s golden girls had Birmingham 2022 firmly in their diaries until Covid-19 struck, obliterating the sporting calendar and creating a backlog of events for the next two summers.
The upshot for Asher-Smith and KJT is the defence of their world titles in Oregon has been put back a year to just days before England’s second city opens its doors to the Commonwealth.
Worse still, the European Championships start in Munich barely a week after the curtain falls on the Birmingham showpiece.
Sotherton, three-time Olympic medalist turned boss of England’s Commonwealth track and field team, knows she faces a battle to persuade the star duo to shoehorn Brum into their schedule.
But she said: “My job is to speak to everybody, say “OK, is the Commonwealth Games in your plans? If not, why not? It is a home games. It should be a priority.
“I understand that financially for the better athletes the worlds will be where it is at because there is potential for more money, but I would love KJT to be part of it and maybe Dina might come and do the relay.”
Sotherton can cite the example of Bolt who, at the peak of his powers, flew to Glasgow in 2014 and anchored Jamaica to relay gold at Hampden Park.
“I feel people will choose a Home Games over an Away European championships,” Sotherton continued. “Birmingham is the home of athletics for us in England after all.”
The Isle of Wight-born heptathlete, who won Commonwealth gold in Melbourne 14 years ago, will try to tempt the star duo by selling it as a post-Olympics homecoming party.
“When you are at a home championships and they call you the ‘Olympic champion’, to hear the home crowd cheer you is ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ time,” she said.
Sotherton stresses, however, that athletes’ wellbeing must take priority and says that were she still competing she would give up on this year now and focus on getting right for 2021.
“People have only just been allowed to start training on a track and my concern is if you put events on, you force people to train when they haven’t trained properly for three months,” she explained. “The risk of injury is therefore higher.
“I would hate for anyone to compete in September with a lot less training than they would normally do and hurt themselves in the year before an Olympic Games. That would be devastating.
“If I was competing, I’d think: ‘What have I got to gain from this year?’ You cannot win anything. You are better off resting, then having a bigger, longer and slower winter.”
Sotherton knows however that sporting businesses, crippled financially by the lockdown, are desperate to return.
“I am involved in rugby and cricket and it’s a scary prospect that we are going to go back to amateur days for a little bit for a lot of sports,” she said. “It might take us back 20 years and we have to start again.”
2022 CHAMPIONSHIP DATES
Worlds (Oregon, USA) July 15-24
Commonwealths (Birmingham, UK) July 27 – August 7
Euros (Munich, Germany) August 15-21