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Interview: Team GB's hammer bronze medallist Sophie Hitchon

Team GB hammer star Sophie Hitchon speaks to Sports Mole following her historic bronze-medal win at the Rio Olympics.

In one throw, Sophie Hitchon clinched her first Olympic medal and carved her name into the history books.

The Team GB hammer star from Burnley knew that her final throw would either result in a spot on the podium or a flight home to England empty handed.

Under the pressure, Hitchon broke her own national record to throw 74.54 metres, and in the process became the first British woman to win an Olympic hammer medal and the first Briton to win the event since 1924.

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"It's been a bit of a whirlwind to be fair," Hitchon told Sports Mole. "When I finally got my medal it was an amazing experience and I'm just happy to be here. I've heard a lot of different stats and it was really amazing to enjoy them all and I'm really proud to be in this situation, but when I step onto the field, I just focus on doing my best performance on the day."

The 25-year-old - a former World Junior champion - held third position in the early rounds of the showpiece, but dropped to fifth heading into the final throw on Monday.

Hitchon was below standard by her own admission leading up to the final as she qualified 11th out of 12, but she found form when it mattered by clinching third, while Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk smashed her own world record with a throw of 82.29m to take gold, and China's Zhang Wenxiu earned silver with 76.75m.

"It's always quite nerve-wracking, but I knew I was in great shape to throw far," Hitchon told us. "My coach always tells me to keep my mind quiet and relaxed. It's my technique that we've been working on and it worked out.

"It wasn't the way I wanted to qualify, but the thing is, you just want to make it through and once you're through, anything can happen in the final, but it was a little bit nerve-wracking because I knew I was in better shape than that and I just wanted to prove it going into the final."

Coming fourth in last year's World Championships in Beijing and in this year's European Championships in Amsterdam spurred Hitchon on to go that step further in Brazil, with the knowledge that a single mistake could ruin her chances of medalling.

"I was really pleased with my fourth place at the World Championships last year, but was a little bit more disappointed at the Europeans this year," said Hitchon. "To now come away with an Olympic medal - I'm really pleased.

"In events like field, it's so technical so even a fraction off can make it all go wrong, but we have championships every year that we work for, like London 2017 - taking part in those championships help with keeping it together for the Olympics, which is the pinnacle of our sport, so it's amazing to come away with a bronze medal."

Sophie Hitchon on her way to a Commonwealth bronze in the women's hammer throw on July 28, 2014© Getty Images

Going from 12th at the London Olympics to bronze in the space of four years is a remarkable achievement for the Brit, so will she be gunning for gold at Tokyo 2020?

"There's a lot of work to do between now and then," said Hitchon. "I'm going to take my break for this year and then work on preparations for next year, but I take it year by year so we'll see in another three years where we're at."

There have been a few dark shadows hovering over the Olympic spectacle in Rio, namely the ban of Russian track and field athletes following the McLaren report, which has accused Russia of a state-sponsored doping programme.

In London 2012, Russia's Tatyana Lysenko, who is currently serving a suspension for alleged doping, took gold in the women's hammer throw, and Hitchon believes that the stance of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) "proves that [they] are trying to deal with the issue".

As well as the doping crisis, Rio faced criticism leading up to the Games, with some concerned about the condition of the facilities and the political unrest. Despite reports of robberies during the Olympics, Hitchon has enjoyed her time in Brazil.

"It's been really good," she said. "[Everyone's] been really welcoming, all the people have been amazing. The Athletes' Village is great and for me it's been a really smooth ride. So, I'm thankful for that."

When Hitchon sealed bronze, she became the fourth Team GB athlete to reach the podium in track and field following Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford, who won gold, silver and bronze in their respective events.

Greg Rutherford celebrates after winning Olympic bronze on August 13, 2016© BBC

Britain have already surpassed their 48-medal target, making the Rio Games their most successful Olympics on away soil.

"It's great for [athletes] and for the team," said Hitchon. "It's been amazing. The team have done really well and I think there's really positive vibes from us all."

Attention now turns to next year, where Hitchon will be fighting for a title in the World Championships in London, and she is hopeful that the meet will attract the same spirited crowds that encouraged GB to glory four years ago.

"We've got some more training to do and we'll work hard and see what happens next year, but we'll definitely be working towards [London 2017] as a major goal next year. London was amazing and if we can get the same kind of crowds that we did there - the support was amazing - I'm sure the team will do really well."

The world's best athletes are coming back to London in 2017 to compete at the IAAF World Championships and World ParaAthletics Championships. The race is on for tickets! Get yours now: tickets.london2017athletics.com

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Sophie Hitchon on her way to a Commonwealth bronze in the women's hammer throw on July 28, 2014
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