By Scott Mills
On a cold, dark and damp evening in December, the Weir Archer Academy’s junior athletes are one set into an extremely intense interval training session on the rollers at Kingsmeadow Athletics track.
What used to be a cold storage room with a draft half an hour before has now transformed into a hot and humid training complex that mirrors more of a sauna than that of a hoarding place for unused spinning bikes.
“Come on guys, five minutes left, come on push harder,” roars the Academy’s coach Jenny Archer MBE, as the athletes continue to go to work on their racing chairs, pushing themselves to their limits whilst streams of sweat continue to pour down their faces.
In the corner of the room, the Academy’s T33 athlete Yasmin Somers can be found with her face nearly as pink as her set of rollers- a symbol of how hard she is working to try and improve herself for the upcoming season.
“These training sessions are very difficult but if I want to improve both my rankings and my times then it is something I have to get on with,” Somers explains as she takes a well-earned drinks break.
“What keeps me going when it gets this hard is the thought that if I don’t push through this other people will beat me or there will be less chance of being able to beat people above me and that’s what drives me to push harder.”
The determination and work ethic of this level-headed athlete is evident and her desire to improve is also very clear.
After being at the Academy for over four years, Somers has gone from strength to strength and whilst the will to be better than she was before is one of her biggest motivations, her team-mates are also part of that will to succeed.
“When you see the likes of Dave [Weir] and Mo [Jomni] train and then see them representing GB at the Paralympics on TV, it really motivates me to train harder,” Somers explains.
“Especially when you know that Jen [Archer] has helped them to achieve their goals, so you know what she is coaching and teaching you is to help you get to yours.
“So I think it’s really important that I get to see how hard they work because it gives me an idea of what it takes and makes me want to replicate it and train more.”
Since the Academy started their winter training programme, it has been unusual to what this young athlete has been used to since 2012.
With the Kingsmeadow Athletics track undergoing renovation, the winter schedule this year has consisted of extremely high intensity roller sessions alongside training on the road in Richmond Park.
But whilst Somers has thoroughly enjoyed putting in the graft during training, her hard-work has already been reaping in some rewards when she raced in the Jedburgh 10k.
“The Jedburgh 10k went really well actually and I recorded a time that was much better than I expected and I even won an award for being the best performing athlete,” Somers recalls.
“Although I liked the buzz I got from road racing, I definitely wouldn’t give up sprinting because I enjoy that so much and I love the vibe I get from competing on the track.
“I would definitely like to do more 10Ks though as my time for my classification was just over a minute slower than the world record so I would like to try and get closer to that one day and beat it.
“Unfortunately though, Jedburgh isn’t a ratified course as it is too downhill so obviously maybe if it was a flatter course I would have been further away but I would like to try and get my time as close as possible to it.”
With the thirst to become the best all-round track and road athlete that she can be, Somers is very focused on what needs to be done if she wants to get to the top.
Whilst the ultimate dream is to one day compete in a Paralympics or a World Championships, this T33 racer is only setting her sights on smaller process goals that she needs to reach first.
“Obviously the dream is to compete in a Paralympics or a World Championships, but at the moment I am just focusing on improving my rankings, getting my 100m time down and competing in more 10 and 5k races.
“For me, getting my 100m time down is my main target because as it is such a short distance I feel it is a harder challenge, but I know that when I do get that little bit quicker or faster it will feel a lot more rewarding because it is so hard to get.”
As Somers gets ready for the second set of a gruelling session of flat out sprinting in a room that has a temperature that rivals that of the Sahara desert, she does have one last motivation that she will have her eye on throughout the winter training programme and that is the London Mini-Marathon.
“There are a lot of road races I want to compete in and with it being my last one, the London Mini-Marathon is one I particularly have my eye on.
“So that is a main goal for me and I think I would also like to improve on my endurance over the winter so I can cover more distance.”