Athlete, Olympian, Record Breaker, Team Captain, Coach
Kelly Sotherton is a life member of Birchfield Harriers, but her athletics journey started elsewhere. As a child growing up on the Isle of Wight she was a member of Team Solent:
That winning time and winning distance were Isle of Wight records and there was no stopping her from there. She changed clubs to City of Portsmouth, then to Peterborough AC for better competition while at University, before settling in Birmingham and at Birchfield in 1998.
Kelly won the English Schools’ AA U17 Heptathlon title in 1992, and in 1994 took the U20s title. The 1994 title came with another prediction for the future. Denise Lewis, who had just won heptathlon gold at the Commonwealth Games was presenting the medals, Kelly told her: one day, I’m going to be on the podium with you. It so nearly came true. 10 years later, the 2004 Athens Olympics saw Kelly and Denise both in the heptathlon competition, but while Kelly went on to win the first of three Olympic medals taking bronze, Denise, carrying several injuries, had to withdraw from the competition after the long jump.
Kelly’s career saw her compete at the highest level for Team GB and Team England. In addition to the 2004 Olympic bronze, she won gold at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. 2007 saw a pentathlon silver medal along with a Commonwealth and UK record at the European Indoors in Birmingham, UK, placing her third on the world all-time list – not quite what the 10-year-old Team Solent athlete had prophesized, but not far off. Long jump and 800m were always her best events and she maintains that had multi-eventing constituted of these events exclusively she would have won everything going.
2008 brought bronze at the World Championships and another World Indoor pentathlon silver, as well as fifth at the Beijing Olympics. This was later adjusted to bronze following doping disqualifications of two competitors, although it took 10 years for the bronze medal to be rightfully awarded to Kelly. A member of the 4x400m relay team in Beijing, Kelly won another Olympic bronze.
Kelly retired from competing in 2012, since then she has coached athletics both through the age groups and at senior level. She worked with Wasps Rugby Club as speed coach for several seasons, as well as being speed coach to Warwickshire Men’s First XI Cricket team.
Following the long tradition of former athletes as team leaders for major events, Kelly became Team England Leader for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. The team won 34 athletics medals in total, contributing to an overall total of 176 Team England medals, their best ever medal haul at the Commonwealth Games.