London Calling, Again

throwing

Two weeks since I competed back in the London Stadium, I thought I would write a little blog about my experience to satisfy you eyes and your brains.

5 years ago I had a tough time in the very same cage I competed in a fortnight ago, yeah I know, the exact same one! Up to the eyeballs with painkillers to combat a worn out hip and carrying the pressure of being team captain and very first event of the 2012 Paralympics in the stadium, I finished 11th in what is the worst result of my career. Needless to say I was hoping for better things this time around.

I expended my stick chucking medal collection, winning Bronze with a throw of 29.32m, only my 5th best performance this season, but who cares? Me, of course.

I was hopeful of a good performance and felt I could even challenge for gold having thrown the best I’ve thrown for two years in June (32.26m). However I picked up a niggle in my back two weeks before my competition which meant that I didn’t quite perform as well as I hoped. Don’t get me wrong, I was still probably 90-95% fit in London and am really happy with how I did on the day, I think I threw about as far as I physically could and mentally I coped very well with the pressure and potential demons from 5 years ago – really enjoyed being out there. It’s just frustrating as an athlete when you know you can do much better. However I’ve experienced enough in my short career (note sarcasm) to know you don’t sniff at a medal on the world stage, so I won’t.

flag7Enough with the negativity and what if rubbish. This was a proper competition and the way we prepared and delivered another medal at the highest level makes me very proud. I admit I was struggling in the two weeks prior to the comp (you know already!) and to come out and win my first World Championship medal since 2011 shows our commitment and focus. My coach, Ros (the Mam), and I stayed very calm when we could’ve panicked, we just focused on controlling what we could and tried to improve everyday. We spent a great week in Loughborough with mentor Ray Knight before heading to London, getting my mental approach and mindset right, I also have to say that using Headspace meditation for the past 3 months really helped me to be the calmest and most relaxed I’ve been heading into a major competition – I have to say if you can meditate in the middle of having a huge extension on your house then you can block out anything.

It’s a testament to the work we’ve done with my physio Penny (the Performance Clinic) and chiropractor Andy (Think Chiropractic) that my body recovered so well and so quick. At my age that’s not easy! I also boosted the sales of Voltarol gel and Deep Relief. The saying you can’t be a proper athlete unless you stink of deep heat must be true as the call room wreaked of it (I made that up by the way).

The comp was great, all my throws were within about 50cm which shows my technique was spot on. To win the Bronze by 74cm and beat guys I know can beat me gives great satisfaction. More importantly though, was to do it in front of Team Miller – who were over 50 strong and had a great day out, the t-shirts caught the eye a bit too – well done to Rach (the Wife) for organising. It was great to give them something to celebrate too, and they did celebrate – even at £5 a pint and £5 for a sausage roll.

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London 2019?

The World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 was undoubtedly a success and was a world away from my previous 6 World Championships. Well organised, amazing stadium, amazing media coverage, amazing atmosphere and amazing performance. It carried on nicely from what was created in 2012, and whilst a single sport championships is never going to rival a Paralympics, it delivered a great experience for everyone involved.

Should the World Para Athletics Championships return in 2019? As a British athlete I could be selfish and say yes but I’m not entirely convinced. In this country we have hugely raised the profile and interest in disability sport, but as a global sport is it going to help the worldwide development of para athletics to host it in London again?

The media coverage is great, and you could argue that the extra exposure is reason enough to bring the championships back, but how much is seen outside this country?

Then there is the cost, London 2017 was an expensive championships and athlete entry numbers were down, we want to see competitive events with strength and depth, is asking countries to pay to come back to London the year before the Tokyo Paralympics going to help with that?

We push para sport a lot in this country, which is excellent and I think the British public have a big affection for it and love how successful we are, but is hosting another major championships just two years after the last going to be a case of going to the well too many times?

As an athlete I, like others, want to compete in big stadiums with crowds and lots of media interest, the last thing we want is to go back to empty stadiums with little interest – if having the Championships back in London is the best way to do this, so be it. However we mustn’t be blinded by success, the rest of the world has to be given a chance to step up to develop the sport worldwide.

I’m torn on this topic, my heart kind of says maybe it would be good back in London 2019, but my head says no.

As I’m a member of the newly formed World Para Athletics Athlete Advisory Group I’m keen to represent the views of many athletes not just my own, and hopefully help decisions be taken for the good of the long term future of the sport. I welcome any views on this or other topics, contact me on stephen@smilethroughsport.com

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