Farewell Bobby

sept08 016sept08 017One of my sporting heroes left us today – Sir Bobby Robson – I’m proud that I got to know him and could call him a friend. He was one of the best coaches in the world and had so many qualities to admire, a true sporting great, but he carried it off with humility and honesty – something very rare at the top level of sport where the pressures are so great. I will try to do a proper tribute when time permits but for now here’s a couple of photos from the last time I spoke to Bobby, about a year ago.

London Calling

Made the epic journey down to Crystal Palace on Friday for the inaugural UKA Disability Challenge, and it was epic – 9 hours in total, with the last 15 mile taking 2 and a half hours – London is an absolute joke to get anywhere at any time, I seriously don’t know how anything gets done in London. I did lose it quite spectacularly when we eventually got to the hotel but couldn’t turn in because it was a bus lane, I went Morpeth mental as we had to go back round the one-way system. When we did pull up outside the Jury’s Inn, there was no where to park and I was searching the streets at 10pm looking for somewhere to park. It wasn’t the best start to the weekend – I’m thinking of heading down to London now and I might be there in time for the Paralympics in 3 years time.

I have to be honest and say I was less than optimistic about how this competition would run, as they were putting it all on over one afternoon. But I’ll hold my hands up and say it ran very well and was well organised, credit to UKA – which is unusual for me. My competition was at 5.20pm, and I thought I might be throwing at midnight by the time everything ran late but it was all bang on time. I’m getting used to being a one event athlete, I like it, I had a very relaxed morning and afternoon before my competition. I threw a season’s best 32.91 metres to win the competition which was a decent standard, and one I may well have lost a couple of months ago. It means I’ve improved in every competion this year, going from 27.98m in April, which is certainly what you want as an athlete, and while 32.91m is only 1.46m off the distance I threw in Beijing, I was slightly disappointed because I felt I had a lot more in me.

Got a few more competitions coming up, and if I can continue improving it will show that I can still perform to a world-class standard even with a knackered hip. I do think there is a lot more to come as I didn’t start training until January so I’m a few months behind. My next competition is tonight at Jarrow, I haven’t competed at Monkton Stadium for about 10 years, when I was just a young’un, so it’ll be nice to throw there.

At the weekend there were more controversial classification decisions, and classifiers are a bit like football referees in that they make important decisions that affect peoples careers and the sport as a whole, but they won’t explain or discuss the issues, they just hide away. I know it’s a thankless job being a classifier but there needs to be a lot more transparency and openness – I really think something is drastically wrong in the way athletes are being classified in the cerebral palsy seated classes and its threatening to wipe out lower classes. Some common sense needs to be applied as recent decisions have just been crazy.

Competition Play List:

If You Ever – East17
Even a Little – Indigo Colony
Ever So Slightly – Lenzman
Let’s Lightning – Pull Tiger Tail
Girl All the Bad Guys Want – Bowling for Soup
Rock Star – N.E.R.D
Local Boy in the Photograph – Stereophonics
D Origional – Jeru the Damaja
Around the World – East 17
I Need Your Loving – Baby D
Playing With Knives – Bizarre Inc
Temper Temper – Goldie
Machine Gun Funk – Notorious BIG
There is a Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths
Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
Jericho – The Prodigy
A Bit Patchy – Switch
The World is Yours – Nas

Throwing Up Some Dollies

Beautiful conditions at Gateshead for last night’s competition, before I threw my girlfriend asked what I was going to use as an excuse for throwing like a girl – that’s confidence for you. Thankfully I didn’t need any excuses because I threw a season’s best 31.60 metres. It was nice to go over 30 metres for the first time this season, my first three throws were all over 30 metres and I built up nicely, however my second three throws were not so good as I tightened up a bit, I was slightly disappointed I couldn’t build on my first set. Overall its a step in the right direction and a good confidence boost ahead of the nationals.

There’s a lot of improvement to come, both technically and physically, it was by no means my normal preparation for a competition, I spoke at a London 2012: Student Leadership Conference in the afternoon before heading to work. So it was a very tiring day and after I’d thrown I was extremely tired – Which is why I’ve got to be happy with the result.

Here’s my competition playlist:

Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire
Always – Blink 182
Man Overboard – Blink 182
Six Minutes – Boy Kill Boy
Laser Eyes – Dartz!
Black & White Town – Doves
Still D.R.E – Dr Dre
Today Tomorrow Sometime Never – Echobelly
Bullets – Editors
Munich – Editors
Mass Appeal – Gangstar
Basket Case – Green Day
Digital – Joy Division
Genius – Kings of Leon
Deep – East17
The Coast is Always Changing – Maximo Park
She Bangs The Drums – Stone Rones
Airbag – Radiohead
She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult

You Know You’re Getting Old When…

You go to your cousin’s son’s 4th birthday party, you don’t know any of the songs and are the same age as most of the parents – then you go to an 18th birthday party for a lad you’ve known for 10 years, pretty scary, but I was a good role model as usual and bought him his first pint.

You also know you’re getting old when fellow athletes start retiring – Danny Crates announced that he is to retire after the nationals at Crystal Palace. I’ve competed alongside Danny for his entire career and he’s been a great ambassador for the sport, a proper athlete. As he says, he hasn’t always been successful, and landed his single Paralympic gold in Athens 2004. However he’s made out a great career and has won every title going during his career. He was a surprise GB flag carrier in Beijing but then couldn’t compete due to injury and never defended his title. Because he’s a track athlete and fairly able-bodied, Danny’s always done well with media coverage and sponsorship, I once chatted to Danny when I was upset that my event was not covered by TV after I won my 3rd straight world title, Danny couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy but I wonder how he would’ve felt had he been shunned by the media.

I’ve have had great coverage in my career but it is something I get bitter about, and I don’t mind admitting that. Had I been a track athlete with a less severe disability, my successes would’ve been more greatly recognised, but I’m not and so all I can do is keep my head down and plow on. A bit like Danny, missing out on gold in Beijing (the first time I hadn’t won gold in a Paralympics) meant that I probably missed out on getting on the honours list, as they were giving them out like confetti. Is all that why I do sport? – No, if it was, I’d have packed in years ago, but I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel something towards it.

Good luck to Danny, he’s a top bloke and a proper athlete, he’s another world-class athlete that the sport will find difficult to replace.

I started off Hollywell first school’s sports day yesterday, by miracle it didn’t rain. I got some very interesting questions from the youngsters, including when my birthday was. I was able to show the kids what I did and as we were on the field I threw a club from my wheelchair, it was a canny throw – probably further than I threw in training that morning.

Training has been hit and miss recently but that’s not unusual for me, I’ll be on full throttle tomorrow night at the local league competition at gateshead stadium. Come down and watch, I might buy you a pint after.

An Elephant Never Forgets…

And that’s why I’m not an Elephant, because I do tend to forget about things. I almost forgot to start the Sunshine Run last night on Newcastle’s Quayside. Thankfully my dear mother phoned me to remind me as I was crossing the Tyne Bridge on the bus after leaving work. So the crisis was averted and I was there to start the 8th running of the Sunshine Run, which raises money for the Sunshine Fund, of which I’m a VIP Patron. I’ve started the run every year but for once when I was in America competing, I’ve also done the race on my tricycle but I nearly killed loads of people and hit a lampost so I’m not allowed to do it for health and safety reasons now. The write up is here – http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/todays-evening-chronicle/2009/07/09/fundraisers-take-to-quayside-for-sunshine-run-72703-24113613/ – and I’m not too chuffed that they’ve demoted me to double Paralympic Champion.

I’ve registered to compete in the local league meet at Gateshead Stadium next Wednesday ( 15th July), I haven’t competed a lot this season for various reasons so I need some competition practice and sharpness ahead of the National on 26th July at Crystal Palace. Been a funny year because of the uncertainty surrounding my hip, and it won’t get any better until decisions are made and we can plan ahead. I want to end the season on some big throws as my season average is stupidly low, no doubt if I’d competed in the PWC and at Stoke Manderville – where conditions were good – my season would look much better,  but I had good sensible reasons for not competing.

It’s the nationals all the way now, I’m in decent shape and I know I’m still in 33m+ shape and aim to prove that very soon. If you’re around next Wednesday night and its good weather, get to Gateshead Stadium, get a suntan, get a beer, and watch me expertly smack the shit out of a wooden stick.

Ciau x

I’m So Vain

scan0001I’m so vain, its true, I even think this post is about me – Well, it is actually all about me, in fact so is pretty much all of this blog, apart from when I start rambling on like I am now. The picture on the left is from the dinner on Friday night which was at the Visitors Centre in Gateshead, and was to mark Gateshead’s bid to become a European City of Sport. We’ll ignore the fact that Gateshead isn’t a city, as did the judges I suspect, the dinner was the end of a two-day inspection visit from the judging panel, including the President who came all the way from Milan and whom affectionately referred to Gateshead as Gatesheed – genius.

Gateshead really know how to look after their guests, the food was excellent and the wine, champaigne and port were freely flowing. Freebee dinners are definately my kind of dinner, especially as I’m such a tight-was, apart from when it comes to clothes, and I gave my new suit its first outing on Friday night, it caused quite a stir, its a suit not everyone could pull off, but I can. Each table was named after a local sporting hero from Foster to Edwards etc, and one of them was named after me, fittingly the one I was on, so I knicked the table info thingy (left) because I thought it looked quite cool and I’ve never had a table named after me before – I’m sad, I know.

My visit to Cedars school last Thursday got a good write up in the Chronicle on Friday, unfortunately the story isn’t online that I can see. Was a great day and very competitive, I reckon I won the club throw but had to be careful as there were gardens at the end of the field. One story I can show you is the write up from my visit to Sheffield for the changing places campaign.

starDecent picture of me too, here’s a few more pictures from my trip to sunny Sheffield…

changing placeschanging places3changing places2

Weighing Things Up

I’m sure,
then I’m not so sure.
No, I’m sure I’m sure.
maybe there’s a different way,
another road
that leads to a better place.

Yeah, I’m not sure again.


It’s been a couple of weeks since my CT scan and I’m no further forward on what’s happening, or more importantly what is going to happen. Things seem to move pretty slow in my medical circles which can be frustrating but I guess my condition isn’t life-threatening and I know that the team want to make the best recommendations possible for me. I understand the Professor wants an unusually detailed report from my CT scan which is why the results are taking so long to process. I’m aware the clock is ticking but we can’t rush this thing as it’s a bit more serious than having a hernia. Most sports people wait til after they retire to have joints replaced, so as usual I’m doing things backside first.

I’m not just sitting  on my backside though, I’m in good shape and will be in Crystal Palace for the inaugural UKA National Disability Championships on 26th July. It’s the first time UKA have organised their own disability competition so it will be interesting, the latest fad is for inclusive events, so it’s part of the Crystal Palace meeting. I’ve never been a big fan of inclusion as I think it just leads to problems and the lower disability groups being squeezed out. Also, the differences between able-bodied sport and disability sport leads to lots of confusion for organisers, officials and spectators. I guess the positive angle is that it gets disability more into the limelight, but only a few disability events will get covered and included in the main meeting, thats not inclusion for me – its tokenism.

Going to the Ceedars School’s Sports day this afternoon, they are a sports college and are doing great work in guiding young disabled people into sport. In athletics there are so many changes happening that its hard to keep up, news that London and Loughborough are now the HiPacs is no real suprise, UKA want to invest their money where they think it will be most effective which is fine, but you won’t find me moving down south to access support services. I have everything I need up here and it has served me well for the last 15 years in sport, I just don’t think uprooting athletes from a stable environment and taking them away from there coaches, family and friends to go to a centre and eat, breathe and sleep sport is the answer. Anyway, if the big medal winning stars stay put, what are they gonna do? An athlete centred approach is more costly and harder to manage but its what we need.