Kimberley Murray is a most determined young woman. A skeleton hopeful for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, she tells Amber Beard all about her rise to the Olympic challenge and why she still loves the Isle of Wight.
At the tender age of 27 Kimberley Murray has achieved much and in her own words has plenty more to achieve going forward. An Island girl born and bred she lived in Binstead until setting off for the University of Bath where she gained her degree in Sport and Exercise Science and Loughborough where she gained her Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology. “I’m sport through and through,” she says, “I loved sport from the first time I did PE and sports day at Nettlestone Primary where I went to school was always my favourite day. I have great memories of wanting to be the fastest and I loved it when I came out on top.” Kimberley then went on a three day summer camp at the athletics track at Sandown High School and that was the clincher for her. “That was it for me,” she explains, “From then I just loved athletics and trained once a week to start with the Isle of Wight Athletics Club and stayed with them until I went to university.”
But injury struck and having continued her athletics through both of her degrees she decided that it was no longer for her. “It became a real grind and I wasn’t producing the sort of performance and results that I was accustomed to when I was at my peak and I found that really difficult because I thrive on being the best. I finished university and I got to that point that imagine a lot of people get to, I loved sport but realised that I also had to make money to live. I was very driven, not just by sport but by also becoming a sport scientist and so I got a job in Scotland for Sport Scotland working at the institute of sport as an exercise physiologist.” Kimberley says that she has always know what when wanted to do from the age of thirteen when she was on a South England sports camp and a sports scientist came and gave a talk and told them about his job. “I thought ‘that’s the job that I want to do’ and that was it. I realise that a lot of people don’t have that clarity which is maybe a blessing and maybe a shame but sometimes I do wonder where I would have ended up had I not been so set. I love planning and organising, so maybe events or PR. But I don’t have any regrets, I absolutely loved my job.”
So, I ask, why having come from an island of sailing and water has she chosen skeleton as her preferred sport of choice to conquer the Beijing Olympics with? “I was away on a break in Dublin and the Sochi Olympics were on the television,” she explains. “Long jump, which had been my sport of choice had become more difficult through injury and I saw Lizzie Yarnold not just win at Sochi but destroy the field. I knew that she had come through a talent transfer scheme as a former heptathlete, did the Girls for Gold about five years before the Olympics and suddenly she had a gold medal which is the absolute dream.” Kimberley goes on, “Then I saw an advertisement for Power to Podium which is a Girls for Gold equivalent run by UK Sport, registered my interest and that’s how the whole skeleton thing started. It was not because I was dying to give skeleton a go but there was a connection with Bath where they’re based and where I went to university and I knew that my long jump wasn’t going to take me any further but I was still an athlete inside and I wanted to pursue the dream of the Olympics – I was working with athletes who had that dream and wanted to be them. I wasn’t sure that I could do it but I have now been doing it for a year.”
Throughout 2014 Kimberly went through the Power to Podium selection process which she compares to the X Factor – from a thousand athletes down to a final twenty, ten boys and ten girls who were then taken away to Lillehammer in Norway to try sliding on ice for the first time. Up until that point, all training had taken place in Bath on a start track which simulates the start of a race but which is not ice. Kimberley was selected in January 2015 and that’s when her real ‘ice education’ began. I ask what her prospects for the Olympics are, “My prospects for the 2018 Olympics are slim,” she says “Because there are people who are farther up the training pathway than I am and are naturally more advanced in their learning and performance. It’s not to say that it’s impossible because it’s what Lizzie Yarnold did but my true prospects and focus are on the 2022 Beijing Olympics which will be the first time that the summer and winter Olympics will be held at the same time. That’s where the programme expects my development to be. It’s a very long journey and will have been eight years from the start when I get there.”
We go on to talk about sport in schools today and amongst young people and I ask Kimberley what advice she might give to children in their early teens. “It’s really sad and I hate to see kids who don’t want to do sport. I noticed it myself when I was fourteen or fifteen when my girlfriends didn’t want to do PE but now I think that age has dropped to kids of ten and eleven not wanting to do it. The advice I’d give is, do something you enjoy – dance or cheerleading, the gym or running, you’ve got to enjoy it shouldn’t be enforced. Even if it’s just play for younger children – going to the park and getting out and running about in the fresh air. It’s all about education around health, wellbeing and healthy eating and I don’t think that many young people these days really understand that. If ten year olds can understand the connection between exercise, healthy eating and sensible choices and then link it to something that they enjoy then that’s the winning formula. We have a national obesity problem so tackle it through education and getting people active again.”
Kimberley is currently on a sabbatical from her job whilst she trains and so is looking for sponsorship to help to fund her living costs whilst she pursues her Olympic dream. “I did some crowd funding through Pledge Sports and raised around £2500 which came from people mainly from the Island which was incredible and why it’s great when I can come home and give something back by talking at schools or visiting my old athletics club. I’m now looking for sponsors that I can work alongside. I’m not just looking for hand outs, I’d really like to get involved with a company or business that I can go into and work with their employees or appear at an event that they might sponsor to give them some sort of commercial benefit so that it works both ways.” Kimberley is targeting companies on the Island as opposed to national companies because she feels that this is where her strongest support base is and where she has the most connection. “I think it’s all about connections,” she says “I’m not famous so I’ll go for where those connections are strongest and that’s the Island and I’ll build a relationship and partnership with that company which is mutually beneficial.”
Kimberley’s mantra is ‘Courage not Confidence’ – it’s hard to have confidence and belief in yourself and so you have to be courageous to gain that confidence and having heard the story of this quite remarkable young woman this is evident. “You need to adjust your goals through life and you constantly come up against challenges, “she says “Get knocked down and stand up again. It just makes you better all round. Learn from your mistakes. It’s safe to fail. You will fail and you can’t let that define you. Pick yourself up and carry on.” I foresee great things for Kimberley in Beijing.
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