This is the News!

Well, I’ve been back from New Zealand almost a month now and it’s over 4 weeks since I competed in the world championships. As with any major championship, I do a lot of soul searching and ask a lot of questions of myself afterwards, this process happens whether I perform good or bad. It’s always important to re-evaluate everything and set new goals in order to move forward. The next goal for me is pretty obvious – to qualify for London 2012, and it starts this April. Not much more can motivate you than knowing you have a chance of be at your home Paralympic Games, but I’m even more motivated when I think of all I’ve had to come through just to be in this position – Being injured pretty much since 2006, pulling medals out on my last throw in both Beijing and the recent world championships, and coping with the loss of my father which you never really come to terms with at such a young age. It all makes me feel very proud and eager to finish the job off in London.

I’ve just started training after a 4 week break, my body doesn’t cope very well with not training these days, I enjoyed the time off but my hip got very angry. Just when I think my hip has reached the most painful it can be, it keeps finding new levels of pain, however my medical team do a great job and I’m feeling loads better now I’m back in training. I won’t be having a great deal of time off from now until London, so that’s probably just as well. I sometimes do wonder if it’s worth going on – I think that’s natural when you’re getting old and knackered like me – but I know this is what I want to do and I wouldn’t miss London for anything.

I know I didn’t do myself justice in New Zealand and there are no excuses for that, I know I will improve though and that excites me. In a way I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, as for 15 years I’ve been expected to win every competition I’ve been in but now I’m going to go into London as a slight underdog which will be nice. I’ve dropped a funding level due to my performance in Christchurch, which is fair enough I guess, although plenty of athletes in the past have been given second chances at the same level after poor performances. It makes me even more grateful to have my sponsors supporting me up to London, they all make a massive contribution.

Away from sport, I’ve used my well earned time off to embark on the exciting and very stressful activity of house hunting, it’s very scary because it’s a very grown up things do, I think I’m getting dangerously close to having to admit that I’m a fully grown adult. However it is an exciting time, Rachel and I are close to securing our own bungalow, the hard work starts now so wish us luck.

And Another One

So… I went all the way round the world, survived an earthquake and won a bronze medal with my very last throw of the IPC World Athletics Championships. Yes, it was bronze not gold. Yes, I didn’t throw as far as I had hoped. Yes it was the first time in my senior career I’ve finished outside the top 2 in any club competition. But you know what, I’m still immensely proud of what I did over in New Zealand. This is the sharp end, the very top, and everyone is trying so desperately to do well, on the day anything could happen – I could’ve come 4th, sure I could. But I managed to dig deep on my last throw again and pull a medal out the fire, and for that I am very pleased.

To be honest I was pretty much struggling the whole time I was over there, I threw 29.60m in a warm up competition in Auckland and that realistically reflected the level I was at, however me and my coach did a fantastic job of staying positive up to the competition. You can’t always be in the place you want to be leading up to a major games but you can’t get down about it, when I’m struggling I always believe things will get better. We know I’m a competition performer, I’ll nearly always throw further in competition than in training, and I continued that trend in Christchurch.

Once again I put everyone through the wringer just like in Beijing, my first 3 throws reflected my form – 27.99, 27.46, 29.19 – The first two throws can only be described as shocking. I was in 4th place and I really couldn’t see how I could throw any further because technically my throws felt good, they just weren’t going anywhere. My mam did a great job of keeping me calm and I felt fairly relaxed going into my final 3 throws. I didn’t improve with the first two, both just 28 metres, so it was down to my last throw. I decided to take my back support off, I’m not entirely sure why but I just felt like I needed to change something, it worked because I threw over two metres further with 31.25 and went into 3rd place. I don’t know if it was psychological or if the back support was somehow restricting me but I’m certainly glad I took it off for that last throw.

The guy I took third place off was last to throw, so I had to sit through his last throws hoping he didn’t beat me, his last throw was a little too close for comfort at 30.61m but it meant I was in the medals – my exact words at that point were ‘you lucky bastard’. Mam was in a right state though, I went over to see her thinking she’d be pretty happy but she was distraught because she didn’t think I’d done it, she couldn’t see the scoreboard and just thought by my reaction that I’d came 4th. I remember saying ‘I got bronze’ and she said ‘No you didn’t’, it took a while for it to sink in for her.

On reflection I should’ve came 2nd as 32 and a half would’ve got me there but something wasn’t right with my new throwing frame and it was stopping me throwing to my potential. The trouble is that things conspired against us, I got a new backrest just before I went warm weather training in November, after that camp I wasn’t able to throw outside for over 6 weeks due to the bad weather, and because of that we were never able to truly spot the problems with the frame. I guess the gold was probably out of reach on the day with yet another new athlete turning up and smashing the world record. We put in a protest against his classification but after 4 hours they decided he was a 32 because he wasn’t good enough to be a 36 – strange. I’m very grateful to the support UKA have given me and my coach up to these championships, they’ve been great and I hope my bronze went some way to paying them back.

What counts though is that I came 3rd with 31.25, its done and now its on to the next one. I was greatly surprised to be selected to carry the flag at the opening ceremony having carried it in 2006, it was an honour though and I had a lot of fun with it.

At the opening ceremony I learned that Mourad Idoudi – The Tunisian Paralympic Champion from Beijing – had been reclassified into the class above me, 33. This news threw me a bit because I’d convinced myself that it wouldn’t happen. I had very mixed emotions, I was glad he was out the competition because I knew he wasn’t the same class as me, but I just wish they’d done it two and a half years earlier – By rights I should be 4 time reigning Paralympic Champion going into London, and in Beijing I had what should’ve been my greatest sporting moment taken away from me and that hurts more than you can ever imagine – I should’ve sang the national anthem in the Bird’s Nest. One thing is for sure, I fight to be awarded that gold medal from Beijing and to have my Paralympic record reinstated – to me classification is no different to anti-doping and if someone is found to be in the wrong class they should have all their medals and records stripped.

As usual it’s been eventful and emotional but this elite sport and if it wasn’t exciting we wouldn’t do it. I’m just so sad that my dad isn’t here to share in it all, no doubt he’d tell me I threw shite and to pull my finger out, but I know he’d be really proud of me. It’s hard to believe we’ve been without him for a year, his memory inspires me to continue because I know no matter how much pain I go through, it’s nothing compared to the pain my dad had before he passed away.

Me and you forever dad.


This is a good profile of me by Channel 4 –

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