Charlotte Payne's journey as an athlete

Last weekend saw a 20-strong team of young athletes heading to Loughborough to represent England at the inaugural Loughborough Pathway International. The team was captained by England Athletics Talent Pathway athlete Charlotte Payne (Paul Dickenson, Reading AC). Despite her tender 21 years of age, Charlotte has an impressive resume; she is the reigning British Champion and the youngest British female ever to throw the hammer over 70m. We caught up with Charlotte to learn more about how she got involved in the sport, her unique relationship with her coach Paul Dickenson and how the club system has supported her development as an athlete.

How did you get involved in athletics? 

I was very fortunate when I was younger as my parents would take both myself and my older brother to whichever clubs we wanted. I was that annoying little sister who just followed my brother everywhere, so we ended up playing lots of rugby. We joined an athletics club when I was six years old and took part in the Quadkids competitions. After a few years doing sprints and long jump, my brother joined the throws group, and I followed him! I started with discus and shot put and moved onto hammer when I was 11 years old.

What is your proudest moment in the sport?

The proudest moment of my career so far was winning the British Championships in 2022. That day opened so many doors for me. I not only won the championships but also threw a big PB and broke that magic 70m barrier for the first time. So many of my big goals were achieved at once and it still gives me goosebumps every time I think about that day! It was great for me but equally so for the people around me, my parents, and my coaches, who invest so much of their time to help me achieve in the sport. I owe them so much.

Charlotte Payne throwing a hammer

What are your goals for the 2023 season?

This year, my main focus will be the European U23 Championships in Finland. I have qualified and am currently ranked 3rd in Europe so I am definitely aiming to make the podium. I would also love to retain my British title. The standard of hammer throwing in the UK is insane at the moment, but I am optimistic!

What did it mean to you to captain the Loughborough Pathway International team?

Being selected to captain is always the biggest honour. It felt great to be recognised on such a talented team. The competition itself was brilliant and I feel grateful to have played a role in the inaugural competition. So many athletes achieved some big marks at that competition, and I felt proud to lead them.

Charlotte Payne with medal

What influence did Newbury AC have on your throwing (coaches, club volunteers etc)?

Obviously, Newbury was where I started my athletics journey. The coaches were very encouraging when I was young, and I was able to try lots of events to see what I liked best. The throws coach at Newbury really helped set me up with a good technical foundation. I have been able to build on this and improve with my new coach.

What is your favourite thing about your current club, Reading AC?

I love the environment Reading AC creates. The athletes, coaches and volunteers are all so supportive. There is a great range of abilities and ages, but everyone is striving to be their best and this brings out great performances in everyone. It is a very friendly but competitive environment.

What advice would you give to others looking to join their local club?

It can be nerve wracking going to a club for the first time. It may feel like everyone else knows what they're doing but there really is no need to worry. A club just provides a great opportunity for you to try new things and find a community of like-minded people. There are so many clubs across the country so if you don't feel like one club is for you, try another. Each club specialises in different events so you may find a different club is more suited to your interests.

Charlotte Payne representing Great Britain

Coach/athlete relationships are very unique. Why do you think you and your coach get on so well? 

We are definitely not a typical athlete/coach pair. My coach is based at a track an hour away and with work etc, I can only manage to see him once a week. When I do see him though it is so beneficial. He is unfailingly honest - if a throw is rubbish, that's exactly what he'll say, yet he always gets the best out of me. He is a great coach and like a member of my family. I am very grateful for him.

Do you and your coach make any adaptations in training or competition to support you as a deaf athlete? 

I've been training with Paul for a few years now and it has never felt like an issue. He knows that I sometimes need him to repeat things and he always makes sure I can hear him at competitions. He also often visually demonstrates the moves I need to make which helps fill in any gaps! We've just developed a way of communicating that works for both of us so we can just focus on throwing!

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