Sophie McKinna: Shot putter and custody detention officer 

Sophie McKinna of Great Britain in action during the women's shot put qualifying round at the 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Sophie McKinna of Great Britain in action during the women's shot put qualifying round at the 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Away from the glitz and glamour of the Olympic Games, dozens of athletes subsidise their sports career by having other jobs. From farming to banking, Tokyo 2020 looks at several hopefuls aiming to make an impact next summer and what roles they have outside of competition. This week, we feature Team GB shot put ace Sophie McKinna who worked as a custody detention officer while training for the Olympics. 

The deets

  • Name: Sophie McKinna
  • Age: 26
  • Country: Great Britain
  • Sport: Athletics (shot put)

Her athlete life

At the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Sophie McKinna did something that no other British woman had done in 36 years. She reached the shot put final.

Not only was the performance a historic one, she also put herself within touching distance of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Her qualifying round throw of 18.61m was not only a personal best, but also above the Olympic qualifying standard.

The Norfolk-born athlete enjoyed a stellar junior career that included silver medals at the 2011 World Youth Championships and 2013 European Junior Championships.

She is also a two-time British Outdoor Champion, having taken the crown in 2019 and 2020.

After her mammoth throw at the World Championships - an event in which she eventually ended up placing 11th - McKinna noted that there would need to be some changes to her routine heading into an Olympic year.

As she explained at the time to Athletics Weekly: "Now that I’ve got the Olympic qualification we’ve got to be a bit more frugal with what we do because that’s got to be the main focus. Everything has to centre around that."

And while that frugality was not intended to encroach upon her professional life - McKinna initially turned down GBP15,000 in funding from Team GB that would have allowed her to train full-time for Tokyo 2020 - she has since changed her mind and put her job on hold until after the Olympics.

Because up until March of this year, McKinna wasn't only one of Britain's most successful field athletes, she was also working full-time as a custody detention officer.

Her professional life

"We're like the bouncers. If people start kicking off, we deal with that so it's an interesting job," McKinna told CNN Sport when describing her day job. "It gets the blood pumping sometimes when you have someone difficult."

Until lockdown in March, McKinna worked in Norfolk Police's investigation centre, looking after detainees. As she told British broadcaster ITV in February of this year: "I basically care for detainees that come in whilst they're being processed and cases are being investigated, so yes my job is mainly to provide care and make sure they're okay."

But despite having a busy working schedule, she would also manage to fit in a twice-daily, six days a week training regime that included throw sessions, plyometrics, weight lifting, cycling and sprinting.

Incredibly for someone leading such a hectic life, McKinna also found time for another role - providing twice-weekly coaching sessions to aspiring athletes.

"I also help coach a small group of athletes on a Monday before my throws session," she told Athletics Weekly. "They sometimes stay on to watch me throw when they’re finished. I love it and I get so much joy when they PB."

Originally, McKinna had planned to continue to work with the police in the months leading up to Tokyo 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic caused her to rethink her plans.

"It’s a risk not worth taking," she explained to the Eastern Daily Press. "I haven’t been furloughed, I decided I had to stop working as I needed to prioritise my sporting career and the Olympics, so I haven’t been doing either job since March."

Now, with funding in place, McKinna can concentrate 100 per cent on her sporting dreams as she looks forward to next year's Games. And she's looking forward to soaking up the entire Tokyo 2020 experience - even if she may need her mind changing when it comes to one staple of Japanese life.

"I love learning about different cultures so will be looking forward to seeing what it’s like although my prime reason for going there is to focus on the Olympics... Food wise, sushi isn’t something I’m really into but I’ll try anything once!"