For the first time in my stupidly long career I competed twice in two days last weekend at Gateshead – on Saturday in the British Grand Prix and on Sunday in the UKA Disability Challenge. Dispite very short notice that my event was being included on the Saturday, and the subsequent small field of 3, it was a good experience. As it turned out, Aviva and FastTrack’s seemingly discrimatory attitude towards disability athletics, worked out quite well because as the disability events were staged outside the main programme we got the full attention of relatively large crowd that had come into the stadium early. It’s not a nice feeling to be treated differently in any form of life but having my event sort of included in the British Grand Prix made me realise how much in-equality there is between able-bodied and disability sport. Image black people being told they can compete, but their events will be put of before the main programme starts, and they won’t get any of the prize money that is on offer to the other athletes. Hmmmm I guess progress is being made but there are lots of barriers and perceptions still to break down
It was a nice moment to compete in my home stadium at such a high profile competition, it was just a shame the conditions were so against me that I couldn’t get a better result – 30.48m into a strong headwind was a solid performance, especially after starting off with a 25m throw. I was happy enough with that, straight after my event I was wisked away to do the Aviva lap of honour with Kevin Balding (picture above), who was chosen as the local hero. Credit to UKA and Aviva for picking me as the athlete to do the lap of honour as I gather able bodied athletes were prefered to me – everything in small steps I guess.
I had a bit of time to grab some of my VIP lunch courtesy of Gateshead Council, and I hung around to watch the fantastic 100m final before heading off. The next morning I was pretty tired and not entirely in the mood to compete again. After the bustle of Saturday, Gateshead Stadium was a bit like a ghost town on the Sunday for the Disability Challenge. The clean up operation was well underway and the atmosphere was very flat.
I wasn’t expecting the turn out of spectators to be great but to say it was disappointing is a bit of an understatement. I would be lying if I didn’t say that it was a bit disheartening, as I’m sure it was for everyone involved on Sunday. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the people who are putting lots of effort to try and bring disability athletics events up towards the level of able bodied events, and then to see it kind of all go to waste. Dispite massive investment of money and effort, big mistakes are being made, you can’t just put events on and expect people to come and watch, unless you’re a football club, you have to hassle people to death to come – there wasn’t enough promotion of this event.
The event itself wasn’t great, there weren’t enough athletes or events, it’s a quite worrying state of affairs. The event was meant to be for elite athletes but without any foreign athletes it was just never going to work.
For me though, I actually threw further on the Sunday – 32.25m – although the wind was slightly kinder it still wasn’t good, so its a positive performance. I’m having a light week before I head up to Edinburgh on Friday to present Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards with Prince Phillip at Holyrood Palace, it’s a hard life!