Testing

Here I have a hand
with so many scars,
it would take so many hours
to work out the journey we’ve had
to this point. What happens now
is up for grabs.
And with both hands, grisp,
grasp and clasp, maybe collapse,
to get the thing that seems so
insanely important at this specific moment
of my being.
I clash with everything
until it is in my salty palm,
only to instantly drop and start
reaching up again.

Gary Speed

Driving back from London yesterday we heard the news that ex-Newcastle United player Gary Speed apparently took his own life. This terrible news was greeted with general horror and shock that such a well adjusted and stable person had seemingly chosen to commit suicide. So much was the shock that my mam almost crashed the car, and it took a while for me to accept that it was true. It is still hard to comprehend and I cannot begin to imagine what his family and friends are going through. All we can do is offer our best wishes and pay tribute to a man who touched many lives and who lived his life as well as anyone would love to aspire to do.

In his time at Newcastle United I got to know Gary pretty well, we weren’t close friends but I would often see him at various events and dinners, and he would always stop to talk. We had great mutual respect for each other as sportsmen. Gary was generous with his time, no more so than when he came all the way to the Benedictine social club in Cramlington to do a charity talk-in for Cerebral Palsy Sport as a personal favour to me. He came on his own with no club official guarding him or insisting how long he could stay, he got lost on the way but calmly stopped at a local petrol station to ask where to go. Once Gary got to the Bene we took to the stage together and answered questions from the floor. All the questions were for Gary, probably because I knew pretty much everyone in the room and everyone was so excited that Gary Speed had come to their club. Gary stayed for hours, he was comfortable and light-hearted, we raised over £1000 that night and people still talk about it now as it was such a great night.

Gary had a difficult start to his NUFC career but he ended it a hero, which sums up his character. I hadn’t seen Gary for many years but I know had our paths crossed he would’ve come straight over to talk and ask how my throwing was going. I was gutted when he left NUFC, you could not help but to look up to Gary Speed, a man who was everything to aspire to. He was a man who gave so much to so many people, and a life that ended far too soon.

We might never know why this terrible thing happened, but we will remember Gary.

Acceptance

Well, I’m about 4 weeks into winter training and I’m still alive and well. To be honest I’m better than alive, I’m happier than a pig rolling around in the proverbial. So far everything about this winter has been positive, even NUFC are doing scarily well with an almost unbeaten league record (Man City doesn’t count as they’re cheating with all their spending) and 3rd in the league for the first time in donkeys years – I’m eager to get those statements in my blog before our next 2 games, and before the Tottenham game tonight, although by the time you read this we may well be down to 4th.

As usual the thing that I dedicated most of my precious spare time and money to tried to push the self-destruct button recently, with the corporate renaming of St. James’ Park. I’m not too fussed about it, it will always be St. James’ Park to everyone who knows of it and if someone wants to put a lot of money into the club to get their company’s logo on the side of St. James’ Park, so be it. There, glad I could clear that up.

So it’s coming up to 9 months until the Paralympic Games next year, nine months that will go very quick. In a weird way it’s like I’ve just become pregnant and am going to give birth to an awesome performance in 9 months – I’m already getting cravings, mainly for digestive biscuits.

This year we have changed lots about my training in order to improve next year. It’s taken a while to sink into my skull but I’ve finally accepted that I can’t do everything on my own, at I need more help that I used to in order to get the most out of my body. For about two years I’d been doing my own strength & conditioning and had become stale, whilst still working as hard as I always do but just not progressing.

I am now working one to one with Gary Nash and Tom Clay at the Unit Gym in Newcastle, the gym is under a railway bridge and is absolutely not a poncey gym – apart from when Tom has his Glee music on. I’m feeling the benefits already, basically Gary makes me do things that I wouldn’t make myself do, even for someone as motivated as me, there’s a point where you need that little push to go past, and he is certainly pushing me. Every session is a challenge and a war – that is what I’ve missed in my gym sessions since UKA stopped my S&C support. Very grateful to Gary for his help and I’m sure it’s going to have a massive impact on performances next year.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have told me they got tickets to watch me compete next year, it gives me even more motivation to be the best prepared I can be. I’ve been very frustrated the last couple of years that things haven’t always gone how I’d liked but now this is a fresh start. When I started at the Paralympics you virtually had to drag people into the stadium to watch it, now people are paying good money to get tickets and some sports are selling out, it’s massive progression. I for one, want to put on the best show possible for everyone coming to watch. I know in my mind I am defending champion from Beijing, what happened there was wrong but it’s now accepted, and I go into London looking to defend my title and undefeated record with honour, pride and bravery.

The man versus hip battle is going well, it has been botoxed and cortisoned, and it is behaving a lot better.