Hammer athlete Julia Ratcliffe says a break from the sport has helped her to career best form, as she works towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The 26-year-old took a year off from elite competition after winning a stunning gold medal at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“I’d had a lot of injuries and being a full-time athlete is full on so I just wanted to be a normal person for a bit,” said Ratcliffe.
So, with a gold medal in her bag, the Princeton economics graduate moved to Wellington where she joined the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in the Graduate Programme.
“I’d been there for a year and then a few people mentioned competing at the Oceania Champs which is the first opportunity to gain qualification points for Tokyo. I was umming and ahhhing because I told myself I was going to take 18 months off competition post Commonwealth Games.
“I was also concerned I wouldn’t be able to train properly but eventually I decided to do it. I went in with the attitude of: what would it be like if it went really well?”
And go well it did. Ratcliffe threw a 54-centimetre P.B. and Oceania Record of 71.39m which saw her win the competition and qualify for the 2019 World Champs.
“I’d been doing so much less training so it was funny it went so well.
Ratcliffe puts the strong form down to really focussing on a limited number of throwing sessions and having a good work-life-training balance.
“I wasn’t constantly thinking about training, having my job to think about as well gave me perspective and I had goals there so I wasn’t solely focussed on sport. I was definitely in a happier space in general.”
Ratcliffe continued her strong form at the World Champs in Doha in September, where a best throw of 70.45m saw her place 14th.
She’s now moved back to her parents in Hamilton where she trains under the tutelage of father/coach Dave as she ramps up her bid to make it to Tokyo 2020.
In between time in the throwing circle and in the gym, Ratcliffe is also working remotely for the Reserve Bank.
“We’ve got the hammer circle in the back yard so it’s the ideal training setup.
“For me I find it really grinding to only train so it’s great to be able to work for home and have that stimulation as well.”
Ratcliffe needs to throw around a-metre-and-a-half further to hit the automatic Olympic qualification distance but she’s not shying away from the challenge.
“We’re excited about training and what we can achieve.
“The goal is to be at 75m at Tokyo. That seems like a big step up but I’ve just been getting stronger and stronger over the past few years so I just need to put that into my technique.
“Having time off has got me fresh and motivated and bringing real mental focus to training.”
Ratcliffe missed out on qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games but says she learnt from the experience and is stronger for it.
“I’ve had a lot of success and haven’t seen a lot of failure in my life so I think not making Rio was actually good for me in the long run.
“I’m calling this the revenge tour as I’m working towards Tokyo and I’m loving every minute of it.”Tokyo 2020 Gold Coast 2018 Olympic Summer Games Commonwealth Games Julia Ratcliffe Athletics