So, it’s been over a month since I competed in the big Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing – it’s well overdue for me to have a brain-dump and shed my thoughts on here.
It was my 4th Paralympic Games, I was defending my club title for the 3rd time having first won it in Atlanta 1996, then successfully defended it in both Sydney and Athens, and it was my 2nd time competiting in the discus at the Paralympics.
My preparation for the games was hampered by a hip problem that had been bothering me since May, I had a cortisone injection in May after the PWC and another injection before I went off to the pre-games camp in Macau at the end of August. The journey to Macau was long – a 12 hour flight to Hong Kong which I thankfully was upgraded on, and then a ferry journey to Macau. I spent 11 days in Macau training and getting acclimatised, it was much needed as I was very tired after the travelling, it took about 10 days to get over the jet lag and to get used to the very hot weather – being in a 5 star hotel was a big help too!
My mum who is also my coach made the trip with me, although her and my dad stayed outside the team hotel. It was a great help for me having my coach with me and she did a good job of keeping me calm and relaxed and dad was loving his 6 star hotel.
The games were fantastic, the venues were mind-blowing and the Chinese came out in their thousands to support. My discus event was before the club, I wasn’t expecting a lot from the discus as I hadn’t thrown it in training since June and was basically using it as a warm up for the club. I certainly got a taste of how strong the competition was as I threw a seasons best 15.44m and came 12th, but I was happy with how I performed and the hip just about held up.
My build up to the club wasn’t the best, every session was a struggle against my hip and I wasn’t exactly setting the world alight – I never threw over 32m so I knew I had a lot to find in the competition.
The competition was just as tough as I expected and I found myself down in 4th place after the first round despite throwing a respectable 32.72m. So I knew it was all or nothing in my last 3 throws, I was confident even though the Tunisian athlete had broken my world record with 35.77m, I still felt I could win it. My 4th throw was an improvement at 33.15m but still kept me in 4th place, my 5th throw would’ve been huge but was way too high. So it was all down to my last throw, any athlete will tell you that 4th is the worst place to finish but a negative thought never entered my head. When I threw it, I knew it was big but I knew the gold had gone. There was an agonising wait to see if it was enough to win a medal, then it came up on the board ’34.37m – 2nd’, I was ecstatic and jumped up and down, then as I came out the circle I realised that my Paralympic title and world record had gone, it was hard to take but I’m proud of how I performed and I just got beat by someone who threw out of their skin on the day – that’s sport.
I’ve never been so focused and aggressive in a competition, in 4 hours I barely had a thought in my head apart from thinking ‘oh shit’ when the Tunisian threw 35.77m – it would’ve been so easy for me to fall apart in there. Idoudi (the Tunisian) put more than 3m on his PB, so it was unexpected and I’m dubious of his classification but it’s gone now and I move on.
I’m determined to get my title back in London.
Here’s a stupid poem for y’all.
The day was so calm
to me, I trundled through
the buzzing excitement of
people flinging together in
thousands. The magnificent coliseum of a stadium
that will now be lain dormant, was mine
for a few imprinted moments, walls of noises
swilled around the birds nest and
ran through me, echoing with the course of my dreams.
As the nest was flown, I spied the Union Jack
lightly flowing from the intimidating roof.
I cried a little, then left.