Teesside Olympian Johanna Atkinson has described a new sponsorship deal as “hugely important” as she sets her sights on success at this year’s World Championships in Beijing and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Middlesbrough-based IT firm alphatech are backing the reigning Commonwealth 20km walk champion as she bids to bounce back from the disappointment of being disqualified during the London Olympics.
GB’s undisputed number one race walker for most of the last decade, Johanna says the sponsorship deal feels like she’s struck gold after coming to close to quitting after the 2012 setback.
The disqualification in what she classed the biggest race of her life almost resulted in Johanna quitting the sport she loves, especially when UK Athletics cut all of her funding.
The funding cuts resulted in her taking up a job at her local Asda store, meaning she now has to juggle a gruelling training regime around her working commitments.
But the 30-year-old – who won Commonwealth Gold in 2010 under her maiden name of Johanna Jackson – says her new backers mean she is able to step up her preparations for August’s World Championships.
Johanna, who lives in Skelton, said: “Since losing my funding after the 2012 Olympics, I’ve been having to carefully pick and choose which tournaments I entered but this sponsorship will allow me to really go for it on all fronts.
“I’ve been down to my last pair of walking shoes and I was having to scrounge money off my mum, so alphatech’s support could not have come at a better time.
“It will really help me focus on my sport. It makes me more determined than ever to know that I’ve got a local business behind me. I’ll hopefully do them proud.”
Alphatech owner Rob Rushby is proud to back a leading athlete who hails from his Redcar hometown.
Rob, whose business is based on Skippers Lane Industrial Estate, said: “Johanna epitomises everything that is good about the area. She symbolises all the values that make Teesside what it is – a place where honest, hard-working people do well.
“She is a very quiet, unassuming character who just gets on with her training without saying she’s going to do this, that and the other.
“Johanna deserves a helping hand because she is an inspiration for all the young people in these parts who want to make their mark in life.”
• Visit www.alphatechonline.co.uk to read Johanna’s weekly blog as she steps up her preparations for August’s World Championships.