RETIRED high-jumper Val Rutter is heading to Beijing to help coach one of Britain’s medal prospects for the track.
Val, of Frodsham, is part of the personal coaching team of former high jumper-turned 400m runner Lee McConnell.
The glamorous McConnell, 29, is the third-fastest British 400m runner behind Christine Ohorugu and Nicola Sanders. While harbouring hopes of individual glory, she will also form part of Britain’s women’s 4x400m relay team that will be one of the favourites for gold.
Val, 53, met up with McConnell at Team GB’s holding camp in Macau earlier this week and will travel on to Beijing, where she said conditions would be tough.
“I have never been to China,” said Val, who represented England in the high jump at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada. “But with the smog reported in the media, there is clearly a problem.
“But it is the same for all the athletes and we have to make sure that is Lee’s mindset. The mental side of athletics is crucial.”
Mental preparation provides the second reason for Val’s trip, which she has had to fund herself.
She also coaches London 2012 heptathlon hopeful Katerina Thompson, of Liverpool Harriers.
“It is important for me to experience an Olympic Games as it was the one event I never competed at or attended,” said Val, who works as a geography teacher at the Grange Comprehensive School in Runcorn.
“By going and experiencing it I will be able to prepare Katerina for it so that she is well equipped for the experience and can perform her best.”