Tokyo 2020: Doncaster sprinter Beth Dobbin determined to make the most of her Olympic opportunity

When Beth Dobbin steps out at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo next week, surrounded not by thousands of screaming fans but simply rows of empty seats, it won’t be how she dreamt it.

By Paul Goodwin
Friday, 30th July 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 30th July 2021, 12:30 pm
Beth Dobbin in action at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

But it won’t be any less magical or meaningful for the Doncaster sprinter.

Dream Dobbin certainly did.

From a young age she became captivated by the Games but never truly believed she would become an Olympic athlete.

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Beth Dobbin. Photo by Karl Bridgeman/Getty Images for British Olympic Association

That was until a few years ago when her career quickly moved into the fast lane.

Since then the bubbly 27-year-old, from Sprotbrough, has developed quite a fan club.

Dobbin might represent Scotland – the birthplace of her father, former Doncaster Rovers midfielder Jim Dobbin – but the athletics fraternity has warmed not only to her outgoing nature but the true Yorkshire grit she has needed to juggle jobs, beat epilepsy and overcome injury while still running faster and faster times.

The Tokyo Olympics might be very different to the norm but it doesn’t bother Dobbin one bit. She’s living the dream.

Beth Dobbin celebrates winning the women's 200m final at the 2018 British Athletics Championships. Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

"I don't know whether I'll ever get this opportunity ever again so I really want to make the most of it,” she told the Free Press from Tokyo.

“Obviously it's been a tricky build-up because of the pandemic. It's not been easy but now I'm here I want to make the most of it.

“It’s not about the experience so much because there isn't much to experience really. We train, we go down for meals and that's about it. I'm cool with that. I'm here to do one thing.

“I want to perform well. Not many people get the chance to stand on the start line to represent their country in an individual event at the Olympics so I want to do myself justice and run as well as I possibly can.”

The 200m heats and semi-finals are on Monday and promise to be ultra-competitive, featuring the likes of British star Dina Asher-Smith and reigning Olympic gold medallist Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica.

"I'm very realistic,” said Dobbin, ranked number 20 in the world. “The 200m is probably the most stacked I’ve ever seen it.

“I don’t like to say I want to run a certain time because there are so many factors like headwind.

“Having said that I’d like to come here and perform as well as I possibly can and have my best run of the season here.

“Whether that gets me to the semi-final or to the final I really will be happy with that because I’ll feel I've done the best I could possibly do.”

It’s been some journey for Dobbin. Just four years ago she was combining four part time jobs to self-fund her running. She was clocking respectable times but there was no indication of what lay around the corner.

In 2018 she then kept on breaking the Scottish record and was crowned British champion. A year later she ran a personal best of 22.50.

"I never ever ever ever ever thought I'd become an Olympian,” said Dobbin, reflecting on the last few years. “Ever! To do that is a huge dream come true.

“When I started athletics many years ago now I just didn't show these kind of signs.

"When I was 18, 19, a lot of the sprinters I race against were running world class times at that young age.

"It's very common for sprinters to have breakthroughs in their early teens and build on that. That never happened to me. When the Olympic Games were in Rio, five years ago now, I wasn't running anywhere near the times needed to make teams then.

“So this has just completely came out of the blue, it's a complete shock and I can't quite believe it's happened to me.

"When you say you do athletics to people they always say 'Have you been to the Olympics?' or 'Are you going to the Olympics?'. I always used to think “very very most likely not” and here I am. I've done it.

"The last three years have been amazing. My whole career has turned around, I never expected this to happen, so it is quite overwhelming when I think about how far I've come.”

So when did Dobbin start to believe she could reach the top?

"When I ran sub-23 for the first time because that is such a milestone in 200m sprinting” she said. “When I did that I thought ‘my god that's what the best girls in the country are running, I could really make the European team’.

“Three weeks later I became British champion and I did make the European team.

“Ever since then I’ve been to every championship with the British team and that in itself isn't easy to do.

“Athletics and sprinting in this country is so competitive. You've always got eight to ten girls who are capable of being top three at the British Championships.

“So for me to even be here, I've had to really be on my A game.

“I couldn't be prouder of myself and my coach [Leon Baptiste]. He's been the driver behind this, I've just done whatever he tells me to do. He's done all the thinking and the hard work behind it.”

She may have been catapulted into the international arena but Dobbin hasn’t forgotten her roots.

"I really have fond memories from Doncaster Athletic Club,” she said.

"My first coach John Blackshaw just put so much time and effort into all of his athletes and he taught me so much.

“He got me to English Schools medals when I never even thought I'd be capable of that. It really put me into a good position for when I moved to Loughborough, I was prepared and I knew what was expected of me. I really can't think him enough.”