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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Morgan Mitchell sheds kilos and attitude in bid to make Rio

Morgan Mitchell sheds kilos and attitude in bid to make Rio

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Promising sprinter Morgan Mitchell sheds kilos and attitude in bid to make Rio

By Scott Gullan
Herald Sun
28 Feb 2016

Morgan Mitchell claimed the Victorian 400m title in a career-best 51.81sec. Picture: Christopher Chan.

THE double-take has already happened.

But political correctness takes over and the fact Morgan Mitchell appears to have halved in size since last year is placed on the backburner as pleasantries are exchanged.

As the topic goes to photos which were taken in July last year to celebrate the one-year-to-go anniversary for the Rio Olympics, Mitchell breaks the ice.

“I was an elephant back then,” she says.

That may be taking it to the extreme but the Mitchell makeover is one of the stories of the summer’s track and field season.

Standing on the track at Lakeside Stadium after a solid training session is a completely different athlete and person to the one we last saw running in the 4x400m relay at the Beijing world championships in August.

A new coach, a new training regimen, a new diet and a new outlook on life has seen Mitchell already clock two Olympic A-standard qualifying times with personal bests in the 200m and 400m.

She continued her outstanding form by winning the Victorian 400m title in a career-best 51.81sec.

The 21-year-old has stripped 3kg during the body transformation which she admits is catching people off guard.

“I just laugh, I think it’s pretty funny,” she says.

Getting smarter with her diet combined with a significant increase in training under new coach Peter Fitzgerald has been behind the weight loss.

“I’m not fixated on my eating, I just know what is right and what is wrong,” Mitchell says. “How can I put this? I feel like I am such a different person, I know what I need to get to where I want to be.

“I’m not going to let a doughnut get in the way, it’s just stupid. I can have a million doughnuts but you can only really make one Olympics every four years so when you think about it like that, it’s like the doughnuts can wait.”

Mitchell, a former junior netball star from Werribee, burst onto the scene by winning the national 400m title in 2014 which got her on the Glasgow Commonwealth Games team.

“Once I crossed the line my whole world changed,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting that much publicity and I admit I got a bit carried away but I was young and immature.

“I think I needed that whole year to learn because I didn’t get the result I wanted at the Commonwealth Games and I was pretty pissed off. I reckon if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be here now.”

She only qualified for the relay in Beijing and before she was on the plane, Mitchell had already decided to move on from her childhood coach, Peter Burke, and hook up with Fitzgerald, a former Athletics Australia chairman of selectors and 1976 Olympic sprinter.

Watching first-hand at the world titles how far she was off the likes of Allyson Felix and Co. helped the penny to drop along with seeing her Australian teammate Anneliese Rubie run a personal best 51.69sec to make the semi-finals.

Mitchell felt that should have been her and the first thing she did when she got home was ring her new coach.

It was a call which solidified in Fitzgerald’s mind that he’d pulled the right rein in getting back into the coaching caper.

“When the decision was made she also said, ‘I would love a month off after Beijing’. I said no way, it’s not possible as we’ve got too much work to do,” Fitzgerald explained.

“I had a negotiation with her and we settled at two weeks off. But the day she arrived home she rang me and said, ‘I want to start straight away’.”

Mitchell has gone from being an occasional visitor to the gym to nine training sessions over six days each week combining weights, plyometrics and the track.

“I don’t want to say I was a lazy athlete,” Mitchell says. “I just didn’t know what it took beforehand, I thought I was doing all the right things but I was pretty new to the sport.”

After winning the national title, she reached out to fellow 400m runner, Australian sporting legend Cathy Freeman, and the pair have developed a close relationship.

Freeman’s husband James Murch has also become her manager.

“She’s obviously such a good sounding board. She gives me tips and stuff, sometimes I just call her and ask about food or how to deal with some emotions, it’s not always about the track.”

Mitchell’s clash with Rubie and Jamaica’s Christine Day, who was fourth at the world championships, will be one of the highlights of next Saturday night’s Melbourne Track Classic.

It will give Fitzgerald a guide to exactly where the Mitchell makeover is at.

“I am under no misapprehension and neither is she as to where we rank in the big wide world,” he says. “We really have to drop a lot to be significant in the big wide world but she believes she can get there and I believe it too.”

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