Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

It has been a massive couple of days here in London, kicking off with a black tie function hosted by the Governor General to announce the flag bearer at Banqueting House. It was spine tingling watching Nick Willis walk in with the traditional korowai on, the Maori cloak all NZ Olympic flag bearers wear; I felt very proud as a fellow track and field athlete! It was an amazing function with food from chef Peter Gordon and Neil Finn performing live.

The next day the excitement was building as the torch made its way through central London to the Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony. I was very lucky to be given a ticket to the Ceremony, what many call "The Greatest Show on Earth"! Having never been to an Opening Ceremony before (I did not march in the 08 ceremony in Beijing) it was certainly an incredible experience. Highlights for me were James Bond and the Queen parachuting in, Rowan Atkinson doing his Mr Bean act, seeing live sheep and ducks eating grass on the in-field, Sir Paul McCartney singing "Hey Jude", the lighting of the flame and of course the NZ Team marching into the stadium lead out by Nick.

As I sat there I reflected on how lucky I was to be sitting there watching, and even though it really hurts to not be at the Olympics as an athlete, to be here at all is a privilege and something most people don't get to experience in their lifetimes. For me its my third Olympic experience, having also spectated in Athens and competed in Beijing. What really struck me last night was the excitement and passion of the public and how the Olympics really moves people. Its something you feel not just at the Opening Ceremony, but on the streets, in the train station and down at Kiwi House where the NZ Supporters are gathering. I think I noticed this so much more having been a competing athlete and now seeing the Olympics from the other side of the fence so to speak! As an athlete at the Olympics you live in a protective bubble, you are surrounded by security, have your own bus lanes, your own village and you are treated like rock stars! But to sit in a crowd of 80,000 people you get a different perspective on what the Olympics is all about and as an athlete I am so lucky to be able to experience that.

IOC President Jacques Rogge's speech really resonated with me: "I congratulate all of the athletes who have earned a place at these Games. And to the athletes, I offer this thought: Your talent, your dedication and commitment brought you here. Now you have a chance to become true Olympians. That honor is determined not by whether you win, but by how you compete. Character counts far more than medals. Reject doping. Respect you opponents. Remember that you are all role models. If you do that, you will inspire a generation".

Below are some pics of the Opening Ceremony....

The "Javelin" train to Olympic Park

View from Stadium looking at Athletics Warm Up Track, ready for business next week

Yes those are real sheep and ducks out there in the "green and pleasant land"

Everyone is super excited, even Neil Finn in the foreground!!

Lighting of the flame, teary eyed!

Heading home with the masses

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kiwi House

I had my first visit to Kiwi House this afternoon. The venue was formally blessed by NZ Olympic Team kaumatua Amster Reedy, along with performances by Ngati Ranana kapa haka. (Read more about opening here)



We then had a fantastic kiwi BBQ in the outdoor area and the bar was opened while we watched the first Olympic event - NZ v hosts Great Britain in women's soccer on the big screens, which are showing all the NZ Sky TV feed live throughout the Games.



Its really hard being in London and not being in the village preparing for competition but I am so lucky that I am able to still able to be part of the NZ Olympic Team's campaign at the London Games, even without my spikes on! Its going to be really awesome hanging out at Kiwi House,its a very cool venue, and the atmosphere in there packed with kiwi supporters will be pumping! My role is basically to liaise between the NZOC staff and the operations team at Kiwi House, working with visiting athletes, media and VIP guests. The first big event is going to be the Opening Ceremony party on Friday night.If anyone is in London come on down and say hi. For more info about Kiwi House and visiting click here).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

That incredible feeling

In my previous post I described the amazing feeling you have when you are competing and everything flows and you are smashing out the PBs....well I found some pictures from the comp in Ratingen to show you what that feeling looked like!



Saturday, July 7, 2012

London Olympics

Hi everyone

Well this is one post I really didn't want to have to write, and you might want to grab a cuppa because its a bit of a long one!

Unfortunately my 2012 Olympic campaign is over. The hamstring injury I sustained in Ratingen did not heal in time for me to compete in France tomorrow to do a qualifying standard before the cut off date this Sunday.

I had a self-imposed fitness test on Wednesday in Valencia, and whilst I could run comfortably at about 85% in spikes I couldn't make the next step up to 100% without pain and the serious risk of tearing the hammy again and unfortunately an Olympic level heptathlon requires more than 85% speed in the hurdles, 200m and long jump. I knew that I would not be able to find 25% more in two days.

I had an MRI in Switzerland two weeks ago and the specialist I saw regarding the results confirmed a grade two tear and said that it would be six weeks to heal fully. I tried everything I could to beat the odds and prove him wrong. Andrew and I came to Valencia to be with the NZ Sprint Bike Team to use their therapist John, who did an amazing job to speed the process and get me to where I am now, but unfortunately I have just run out of time as it would have only needed probably another week to be at full fitness. 

I guess I can take some comfort in the fact that there are thousands of other athletes around the world who are hurting just as much right now as Olympic teams are being announced and they are not named, for whatever reason. Especially several NZ athletes who I know personally who have also been robbed of their 2012 Olympic dream through injury. What makes it particularly hard for me this time is the fact that I was in the best shape of my career, and that I won’t have another chance to physically express in a heptathlon what we worked so hard to build in training.

Whilst I would love to say that I don't want to finish my career on a low like this and that I will keep competing (as I did post-Delhi in 2010 when I made the decision to aim for the London Olympics), this time I have to look at the past two years and the ongoing injury battles and realise that at 34 years old my body is trying to tell me something! If only I hadn't chosen one of the most physically demanding, high impact events I could consider trying to line up in Rio in 2016, or in Moscow at World Champs next year, but that's just not a reality now. Four surgeries, countless cortizone injections, stress fractures and a good old hamstring tear to round it off...needless to say I've got some good battle scars!

But its the highlights of my career that I need to focus on, rather than the injuries:
- Olympian (2008)
- 2 x Commonwealth Games (2006 and 2010)
- 1 x World Champs (2003)
- 2 x World Uni Games (2001 and 2005)
- 3 x NZ Records (400m hurdles, 4x100 and 4x400 relays)
- NZ Champion in both heptathlon and 400m hurdles
- Top 10 all time in NZ for 400m hurdles, 400m, 200m, heptathlon, shot put and javelin
- The amazing places I have visited, the amazing experiences I have had, the amazing people I have met and the life lessons I have learned along the way....

This particular Olympic campaign has to rate up there in terms of career highlights - to come from foot and hip surgery, a stress fracture and surviving an earthquake or two (!) in the past 18 months to being in the best shape of my life and doing the huge score that was my first 5 events in Ratingen is something to be celebrated, and is a testimony to my ability as an athlete and the work Andrew and Angus have done using some of the most un-traditional training methods that really do work! Had I been able to complete the event I would have qualified with ease and given the NZ record a good nudge in the process. But it was just that one small moment in the long jump when my body was just in the wrong position at the wrong time and boom it was game over just like that. Its amazing how the difference between elation and devastation can be measured in such small instances, but such is life. The "what ifs" have been run through in my head a thousand times since that moment. We often talked during trainings in Dunedin about the strength and technical ability I was building being like a “birthday present” that I would be able to open at the heptathlon in Ratingen. Unfortunately I had the present in my hands and had just ripped a little corner off the wrapping paper to peek inside, but wasn’t allowed to open it and fully enjoy the gift!! 

The great thing about Ratingen was that for a few hours I had that feeling that every athlete chases and that makes all the hard work worthwhile...that feeling that I had during the high jump and shotput in particular, where you have the timing right and the energy is right and the performances flow out so easily you surprise yourself and you feel invincible, like you are flying, and you perform better than you have at any other time in your career, and the end result is a personal best. Its like a drug and when you get a taste of it you want that feeling more and more, and I guess for me that is partly why I have continued with my athletics as long as I have - because I am addicted to that drug! 

At this stage I am not sure what the next chapter of my life will entail. If anyone has any bright ideas or job offers I am all ears!! Right now I am staying in Europe as I have been offered a job working for the NZ Olympic Committee in the NZ House in London for the duration of the Games (if anyone is in London come and say hi, more info about it here: http://www.olympic.org.nz/london-2012/kiwi-house). It will be incredibly hard to be in London in the thick of things and not be competing, salt in the wounds, especially when now even looking at a can of coke in the supermarket with the Olympic rings on it makes a knot in my stomach! But who knows what kind of doors may open as a result of being there. I would also like to be able to cheer on my good friend Sarah Cowley who will be there smashing it up in the heptathlon and flying the NZ flag! I know how hard she has worked to get there and it is very cool that she will be able to realise her dream and become an Olympian (Follow more of her story at www.sarahcowley.com).

There are so many people to thank...my coaches, in particular Andrew who has coached me since 1997 and has grown into an amazingly talented coach, I couldn’t have done any of it without you; Angus who took me on when I was at my most broken post Delhi and helped to build me into the strongest most powerful athlete I have ever been; and Phil King who coached me during my 2004 Olympic journey back when I was doing 400m hurdles. To my family, especially Mum, Dad, Nins and Andrew who travelled the world to cheer me on and gave me everything I needed to be the best I could be, and my friends who have given me unconditional support and encouragement, thank you all a million times over. A huge thank you to all the physios, massage therapists, doctors, surgeons and sports psychs who have helped to pick me back up when I have been broken and helped to give me longevity in my career. To my sponsors (adidas, Horleys, Blackmores, Skins, Em’s Cookies, and Kevin Hickman) thanks so much for sticking by me and making the journey so much easier financially. To the staff at Athletics NZ, Athletics Canterbury, Old Boys United Club and HPSNZ thank you for your support and belief in me. And to everyone else who has helped me in some way....whether it was being one of my training buddies, a work colleague, someone giving me a flexible part-time job or even just a few words of encouragement by email, thank you!

Its the end of an era for me...one that started at QEII in Christchurch at my first NZ National Champs in 1997 when I finished last in the U20 200m but had fallen in love with the sport, and ends here, not quite the fairy tale ending I would have liked, but I am still immensely proud of what my team and I have achieved all the same. Thank you to you all for receiving my emails over the past years and being with me in spirit both at training and in competitions.

Aureviour from France,

Becky