Melissa Courtney-Bryant dreaming of Olympic success… at altitude – BBC Sport

Melissa Courtney-Bryant: The Welsh athlete bringing Kenya to her bedroom

When her usual January training camp in Kenya was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, 5,000m runner Melissa Courtney-Bryant had to get creative.

Rather than training at altitude 6,000 miles away in Africa, she has been sleeping at altitude in Loughborough.

It is all thanks to an altitude tent, which sits over her side of the bed.

“It is a bit strange,” she admits. “When I explain it to my non-running friends, they do think it’s a bit bizarre.

“It’s a tent that goes over half of my body, down to my waist and it has a heavy chain to keep it down. You have a tube in there with the air, which is then connected to a generator.

“So I’m sleeping at 2,400 metres, which is Kenya height.”

The tent sits over the bed and has a pipe which runs to a nearby generator.
The tent sits over the bed and has a pipe which runs to a nearby generator

Being at altitude increases an athlete’s red blood cells, which boosts performance.

As Courtney-Bryant prepared for a winter in the UK, foregoing her altitude training completely was not an option as she aims to secure her place at this summer’s delayed Tokyo Olympics.

The 27-year-old has been slowly progressing up the British ranks over the past five years – across a variety of distances.

She won bronze for Wales over 1500m at the 2018 Commonwealth Games before winning 3,000m bronze at the European Indoor Championships the following year.

Now the reigning British 3,000m champion is preparing to compete for the first time in 2021 when she races the distance at the World Indoor Tour event in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Friday.

“Yeah, I’m really excited to race,” she told BBC Sport Wales. “I’m confident I’m maybe in PB [personal best] shape or thereabouts.”

Melissa Courtney-Bryant won bronze for Wales at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Melissa Courtney-Bryant won bronze for Wales at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

But while Courtney-Bryant is relishing the indoor season ahead, one eye remains firmly fixed on Tokyo.

“I’ve been wanting to go to the Olympics probably since I was 10 or 11,” she says.

“At that point, I didn’t care what sport I was doing. I just wanted to be an Olympian.

“All those years I’ve had lots of ups and downs and it’s taken a lot to get to where I am now.

“I honestly think I’d cry. It’d just be such a relief and happiness.”

Even sleeping is harder these days. Courtney-Bryant admits you have some “weird dreams” when sleeping at altitude.

But this is an athlete who feels she is getting better and better – just in time to push for a debut Olympic Games.

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