There doesn’t seem to have been a blog written in recent weeks that hasn’t touched on the spectacle that was the Olympics Games, and who I am to beg to differ – What. An. Incredible. Fortnight, over 7 years in the making! Despite the months of skepticism and scaremongering, I think I speak for all when I say, I knew, it was going to be a very special two weeks the moment I saw Her Majesty abseil out of a helicopter with James Bond! The ‘Jubilympics’ have so far made for a pretty memorable summer – apparently there’s never been a better time to be British (in which case even Andy Murry’s medal should count towards our tally) – and so let’s look forward to witnessing the sporting heroics of our pièce de résistance, The Paralympic Games! Very best of luck to all of our athletes competing over the next 11 days and in particular to a good friend of mine @Deano_Miller who goes for a medal in the 1500m on Monday evening – let’s ‘ave it Deano!!!
So, what was it like to sit back and watch from the wings, an event I’d dreamt about being part of for the best part of a decade? In a word… Inspiring. (Okay so I wouldn’t be human if this was the complete truth, but it was mostly… honest!)
It’s hard to pick out any one performance above another, but Greg Rutherford’s Gold Medal in the Long Jump particularly struck a chord with me. Here’s a guy who I’ve sat across the table from the nights before our club’s Saturday league fixtures (the very grassroots of British athletics), bantering about one day hitting the big-time, daring to dream… A guy who has always heralded praise and showed immense promise but who has equally so often been thwarted by injury and denied by surgery – memorably described as “fragile” by the commentary team during the qualification round. Well I for one was ecstatic to see “fragile” Greg prove that dreams do come true, it’s as if his fairy-tale win was written in the script. In fact that whole evening was nothing short of sensational, ‘Super Saturday’ as it’s since been coined – if ever a moment of doubt has crept into my head during these last few months, in between glancing begrudgingly at my swollen knee, this was all the inspiration I could have asked for in urging me to get back on the roller-coaster in pursuit of my own Olympic dream, hopefully lying in wait at the end of another 4 year cycle!
However, I think it’s equally important to acknowledge the other side of the pillow, illustrated no better than by ‘Terrible Tuesday’ a mere 72 hours later, which saw the track and the in-field littered with fallen soldiers. As World Champions, former World Record Holders and numerous nailed-on medal favourites such as Phillips Idowu, Liu Xiang and Goldie Sayers all lay victim to the injury lottery, a harsh and at times very cruelly timed reality of elite sport (as I’m learning):
Paula Radcliffe: “My sport is a beautiful sport, the downside is that it can break your heart and spirit many times over"
— Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) July 29, 2012
Aside from cheering on Team GB, I’ve tried to make a positive difference with the extra time I’ve been landed with this summer. I’ve put myself, as well as my story, to good use by assisting a number of youth projects that I’m passionate about seeing succeed. Amongst others, supporting Sport England’s Summer School Games launches and mentoring several groups of 16 year olds as part of the government’s National Citizen Service has been particularly fun, as well as hugely rewarding and a welcome distraction from my sometimes tormentuous rehab programme.
Without wanting to hyperbolise for effect or sound too over dramatic, rehabilitation from such a severe injury has been by far the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, mentally as much as physically. The painstaking process of building back up strength, mobility, function of the knee and learning to walk properly again before even dreaming of one day going over a hurdle again. Dealing with the self-remonstrating, the grieving, the frustration; all whilst you try and motivate yourself to do one-legged balances and lengths in the pool all summer, whist watching your rivals run PB (Personal Best) after PB on television. I guess it’s almost felt like seeing out a prison sentence, with only one way out and no way to hasten the necessary steps… (potential for a screenplay here, right!?)
— Julz (@JulzAdeniran) August 22, 2012
…I’ve had upbeat days and I’ve had my fair share of down ones too (just ask my girlfriend Jemima!), but as a good friend recently shared with me: “failure can’t cope with persistence”. I know if I can come back from a setback as big as this one then there is little else to fear, nothing more to lose and few on the start line who will have amassed hunger comparable to my own. 3 long months have now passed since the freak accident and now more than ever the tough need to get going!