Heptathlete Sotherton quits with back injury

British heptathlete Kelly Sotherton has been forced to retire from athletics due to a back injury, wrecking her hopes of taking part in the London Olympics.

The 35-year-old, who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, underwent an an operation earlier this month to remove a piece of disc from her back.

She was told at the time by her doctor that she could be running again within six weeks, that does not give her enough time to reach the qualifying standard before the British team is picked.

"I thanked (the doctor) for being optimistic but there's no chance," Sotherton told the Mail on Sunday. "You have to know when to stop."

Sotherton, who returned to the heptathlon last year after quitting it in favour of the 400 metres in 2010, was competing at a combined events meet in Italy earlier this month when she broke down in the 200metres and said she knew immediately the injury was serious enough to end her dream.

"As soon as it went I knew that was it," she said. "I could hardly walk and could hardly move. At that moment, I said 'It's over'. I cried and I think it was hard for (therapist Paula Clayton) and (coach Aston Moore) to see because I was a gibbering wreck.

"I can laugh now. But I was red-faced and it was quite embarrassing leaving the track because I don't want people to see me like that."

Sotherton went to a spinal specialist who told her she needed surgery.

"I had already prepared myself for what he would say and that rubber-stamped it," she said. "After that it was, 'Okay, it's a relief now'."

Sotherton she will now sit back and take in the Olympics as a fan, and will be supporting Jessica Ennis, insisting that the rivalry between the two multi-eventers had always been misunderstood.

"If Jess was American or French, it wouldn't be so much of a bother but she's British and she was taking my fans," Sotherton said.

"Now I'm happy that she's British and I wouldn't really have meant that a couple of years ago. I'm glad she's doing it. I can watch the event now and get excited. I don't think it's as clear-cut as people think."