Sportyhannah74's Blog

The Thomas Green Blog – Leading the Way to Dubai

Posted on: April 5, 2011

Welcome to the fifth installment of my blog. I’ve had some surprising but good news, which has led to a change in my training plans after the IPC World Athletics Championships. To find out why there’s been a change in direction, keep on reading….

As a general principle, I do not like checking my emails. It seems to be the medium people use to tell me to do things that I do not wish to. This is why it was such a pleasant surprise to find out, having reluctantly opened my inbox earlier this month, that I would be representing Great Britain in the IWAS World  Junior Athletics Championships in Dubai in mid April. It is a competition that I was not expecting to compete in, as it had previously been intimated that athletes who had already competed at senior international level would not be considered, but the news certainly made the barrage of emails reminding me of deadlines and internet bills that came with it much easier to take.


In training

The fact that I, and other athletes with cerebral palsy, was eligible for selection is a triumph in itself. Disabled athletics is not the most politically unified of environments, and these championships had previously only been open to amputees and athletes with spinal injuries. A lot of people worked very hard to get more breadth of disability classification in the event, and it is a big step forward towards the ultimate goal of “common sense” within the sport.

It also presents a big opportunity for me personally. Throughout my fledgling athletics career, I have always competed in senior competition, and therefore have always been in “underdog” mode. Whilst this can be good and certainly removes a lot of the pressure, it is probably unhealthy to never be deemed one of the favourites for an event before you reach the peak of your career. Dubai gives me the chance to go to an international event with the aim of winning, which is a completely different pressure and one that I need to get used to.

Having said this, it is very hard to assess your chances in competitions like this, as you have very little idea of who you will be competing against. There is so much secrecy around disabled athletics that it makes the Cold War period look like a shining beacon for international communications. With the lack of media coverage and the limited number of results that appear on the world rankings, athletes can basically choose which performances they wish their rivals to see, which has led to a fair number of surprises being sprung when it comes to major championships. I don’t believe that athletes competing in Dubai even have to have registered a throw on the official world rankings, so it is conceivable that someone I’ve never heard of will wander into the circle and merrily throw 30 metres. It is equally possible that athletes will decide to hide their potential until they peak, leaving me alone in a field throwing clubs against myself! The moral of this story is that you have to just focus on what you’re going to do rather than other people, otherwise you will very quickly go insane.

My selection has certainly forced my coach and I to reconsider my training plan in the lead up to the season. We had planned to take a month to focus almost solely on the physio that will allow me to build a new action, before starting serious throwing sessions a month before the first national competition in May. However, the prospect of arriving in Dubai and announcing, “I can only throw 15 metres at the moment, but look how flexible I am!” did not appeal, so the physio has been postponed until later in the season.

This has thrown me back into the delights of preseason throwing sessions – at times exhilarating, at times frustrating, at times downright depressing. If I judged my ability on these miserable mid-March workouts, I would probably have retired about forty-seven times by now.  I think it is in an athlete’s nature to want to get it right all the time, but this simply isn’t possible. I learned very quickly that you have to focus on just doing the right things and working on the things you’re told to,  at all costs ignoring the clubs as they flop forlornly on to the frosty, rain-sodden grass behind you. It is a cliché, and a nauseating one at that, to say that you have to have faith in your own ability, but I have always found that at some stage – about two weeks ago, this year – everything clicks together and you feel like a thrower again. I don’t know how and I don’t know why – perhaps talent hibernates – but it seems to work.

The upcoming season also sees me return to throwing the discus, arguably my secondary event behind the club.  It is difficult to describe my discus action without the reader having access to hallucinogenic drugs, but here goes.  The origins of my action come from the fact that I cannot throw forwards, in the standard discus action, with any power or purpose. This led to me attempting to throw the discus in a backhanded style, rather like the way you might throw a Frisbee. This seems like a perfectly reasonable idea until you realise that a discus is rather less like a Frisbee than you thought, but a 1 kg lump of metal which is difficult to hold between your index and middle fingers, let alone keep hold of whilst trying to throw it. I have used a whole range of adhesive substances to basically stick the discus to my fingers, and eventually found one which keeps it in my hand just long enough before it rips out of my grasp, taking half of the skin on my hand with it. The action is unconventional to say the least, and I do get gently advised to give it up about eight times per season, but I am a very stubborn person when told I can’t do things. I have seen Czech athletes with very bad spinal injuries literally gluing the discus to their clenched fist and almost punching it out to 12 metres, so my action seems tediously conformist compared to that. My performances also suggest that it would be premature to give up the discus – my personal best of 14.72 metres is under 6 metres off the world record – so for now I continue competing in it when it does not obstruct my club throwing.

Having finished that outburst of self justification, there is little else to say ahead of the season. There is always an air of unpredictability around the start of the season. You do all the right things in training and everything feels good, but you can never truly replicate what’s going to happen in competition. Sometimes I feel that I would like a bit more certainty at this time in the year, but then life gets very boring when you know what’s going to happen. Dubai is only a few weeks away now, and show-time beckons.


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