Sunday, 30 January 2011

IPC Athletics World Championships

The IPC Athletics World Championships took place in Christ Church, New Zeeland from 21-30 January. The competition is the last major event before the much anticipated Paralympic Games next year. Great Britain and Northern Ireland sent a 40 strong team and picked up an impressive 38 medals.

T54 wheelchair racer David Weir has grabbed most of the headlines, as he picked up no less than 3 gold medals over 800m, 1500m and 5000m, each time beating the world record holder to the top spot!

T36 runner, Paul Blake, also collected 3 medals, with gold over 400m and silver over 800m and 1500m respectively. On the female side, Katrina Hart, T37 also grabbed 3 medals, racing to victory over 200m and clinching bronzes over 100m and in the 4x100m relay. T36 sprinter, Hazel Robson was part of the relay team too and won a silver individual medal over 100m. Another member of the podium relay team was T37 Bethy Woodward who powered to gold over one lap of the track.

Demonstrating age is just a number, 40 year old T11 sprinter Tracey Hinton came away with 2 medals with a silver over 400m and a bronze in the 200m. Another great visually impaired performance was by T12 Libby Clegg who showed the world she was number 1 over 100m and took bronze in the 200m. For the VI guys, David Devine managed to secure a bronze in the T12 800m.

More gold success was delivered by T34 teenager Hannah Cockroft who pushed her way to the top of the podium in both the 100m and 200m. T53 wheelchair racer, Mickey Bushell claimed a silver and bronze in the same events. Finally on the wheelchair racing front, T54 Shelly Woods came third in the 5000m.

The youngest member of the GB and NI team, Sally Brown at just 15 years old came a well deserved third in the T46 200m to win bronze. Bronze medals over the same distance also went to T44 Stef Reid and T36 Ben Rushgrove. Both became multi medallists, as Stef jumped to bronze in the F44/46 long jump, whilst Ben picked up silver over 100m. T35 Sofia Warner, matched Ben’s medal colours, but got a bronze over 100m and silver over 200m. Rounding off the gold rush on the track, T42 double leg amputee Richard Whitehead stormed to glory over 200m.

There was also great success on the field, with the most outstanding performance by F44 discus thrower Dan Greaves who not only won gold, but broke the world record in the process. In the same event, Bev Jones won silver in the F37 equivalent and Aled Davies, bronze in the F42 class.

In the javelin, F57/8 gold was grabbed by Nathan Stephens. Fellow Welshman, Kiren Duke also picked up bronze in the F40 class. Ensuring the girls were represented in the event, F46 thrower, Holly Arnold claimed bronze.

On the opening day of the games, F34 Dan West took silver in the shot. Finally, in the club throw, an event unique to Paralympic sport, both Jemma Prescott and veteran Stephen Miller threw their way into bronze position in the F31/32/51 classification.

Overall, the GB and NI team had an amazing games, but how can anyone write about Paralympic sport without the mention of the blade runner, South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius! The all-mighty 24 year old didn’t have things all his way, as a breath taking T44 100m saw him miss out on gold by a thousandth of a second in a shock defeat. However, he tore the field apart over 200m and 400m to claim double gold.

Alexandra Burke

Last night I saw 2008’s X Factor champion Alexandra Burke live in concert at the NIA in Birmingham. The support acts were annoying girl group Per aid and a Scottish solo artist Carrie Mack. The main show was pretty good with Alexandra performing all of her hits, songs from her debut album and a Destiny’s Child medley. I think I most enjoyed her ballads, as she belted them out passionately. I don’t really see many females in concert and I think it’s difficult for solo artists to dominate the stage, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

I’m next seeing my favourite boy band Westlife in concert on 16th March for the fifth time and I can’t wait!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Hurdler Not Sprinter

I was at training the other night and one of my team mates was trying to practice the hurdles before a race at the weekend. It didn’t matter how hard he tried, I kept hearing the first hurdle tumbling to the ground. When he did actually get over the first, he was only faced with more. Despite being determined and having cleared hurdles hundreds of times before, it just wasn’t enough.

This reminded me of life in general. It’s just one hurdle after another and sometimes it doesn’t matter how determined you are and how many other barriers you’ve overcome there will always be one more.

So to my latest barrier. No guide runner again. This barrier keeps coming back to haunt me, bigger and stronger than before. Unfortunately, through no fault of her own, my current guide has to give it up for health reasons. I can’t even begin to imagine how she must be feeling, as athletics is her everything. At least for me all I have to do is find a new guide and I’ll be off again.

I’m trying to stay calm about this situation. It is far from ideal and over the past few days I’ve been watching the IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zeeland, wishing I was there. Those athletes are living my dream and 2012 is just around the corner. But what can you do? Some things are just out of your control. I don’t know how long it will take me to jump this hurdle, but fingers crossed it won’t be too long and I’ll be ready to face the next challenge ahead of me.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

It's a Breeze!

I’ve never been a very technical person. I can just about send texts on my phone, update this blog and browse the net! I’ve also never really been a whizz at mobility, with a cane or my furry friend. So, finding a simple technical device to aid my mobility has been a nightmare!

At first I tried Way Finder, which works alongside Talks (the speech software) on your mobile. Somebody had to load this on my phone for me, but after asking around a few people nobody could show me how to use it! Apparently, if you know how it works it can be quite helpful, as you can type in a postcode and be on your way. The GPS software costs approximately £250.

Next, I tried the Kaptan. This is a small hand held device, which is charged via your computer and the software is loaded on that way too. When I originally got it, it was new on the market, so didn’t have the ability to type in postcodes, but you could do other addresses. Road names, house numbers etc. Like the Way Finder you have to wear headphones to hear the instructions. Kaptan is also voice activated, so I could be giving Calvin instructions and it would confuse the device. I found it difficult walking with an ear piece in, controlling Calvin and understanding its directions. For instance, it would tell you on your left were such and such street, but it would be in fact over the road and not directly on your route. This device costs about £150 and I’m sure is useful to some people.

Finally, my local society for the blind purchased a Trekker Breeze. After reading the description, I wasn’t very impressed, as you are unable to type in addresses and have to pre-record routes onto the system. However, I thought there would be no harm in trying it out. At first I tried walking with the device in one hand, but this proved annoying, as I regularly need to correct my perfect little Guide Dog, which I wasn’t able to do. So, in a moment of stress, I threw the machine into my back pack with the volume turned up to full. I was also frustrated because I kept pressing the wrong buttons to try and record a route. I didn’t realise that it would still let you know what road you are on or approaching. This was all the information I required, as I generally know where I’m going with Calvin, but he’ll sometimes zoom around a corner without me knowing. This way when I am about 5m away from a road crossing it will announce what road I’m approaching on my left or right. This gives me the opportunity to steady Calvin and ensure we stay on track. This isn’t what everyone is looking for, but it works for me and I can relax on walks in the knowledge that I won’t get lost or if I do I can work out how to get back on route. You can record landmarks, entire routes or just press the ‘where am I’ button as and when you need. I generally just have it in my coat pocket these days and nobody even notices I have it. As with any device it’s not perfect, as you might lose reception in built up areas or on a windy day it gets a bit confused! However, it’s great that I can just turn it on and be on my way! I managed to get funding from RNIB and VISTA, so have my own now, it costs approximately £500.

One satisfied customer!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Long Jump

I was at athletics training on Wednesday night, warming up with my coach, as my guide runner has injured herself and he commented on how well I run on my own. I’m fairly used to sprinting by myself these days, with all the drama of last year being in between guide runners. I don’t always manage to stay in a straight line, veering to the left in most cases, but I would say at least 80% of the time I stay in a single lane. Anyway, I made a joke that I would be doing long jump next! I’m just so funny aren’t I, I don’t know where my humour comes from!

My coach decided to take the comment seriously, asking if it was a Paralympic event, what the qualification standards are and how I would be good at it, as I run faster on my own than with a guide. Since losing my useful vision at 18, I’ve never done long jump with the whole fear of not being able to stay in a straight line. The last time I did do it, remembering I used to run a phenomenal 17secs for 100m, took about 5 strides and saw the board about 1 foot away from me and never trained for the event, I managed 2.79m.

I looked up the qualification standards for the IPC Athletics World Championships starting next week and was surprised that the B standard is only 2.75m and the A standard 3.70m. I’m not sure about the A standard, but I certainly shouldn’t have had any problem getting the B standard. I guess for totally blind people to run on their own, learn the long jump technique and land on the board isn’t an easy feat. I’ve done various types of jumps onto a high jump bed in training and that split second being between the floor and the bed petrifies me! I happily do it, but I’m always glad when it’s over!

So, I don’t know whether I’m going to become a long jump superstar, but there would be no harm in trying it again, after all landing in the sand is at least sort of soft!

Thursday, 6 January 2011


This is not a moany post, just a post to keep track of my injuries. My body is determined to give up on me!

Ankle – sprained February 2010, have been waiting 8 weeks and counting for an anti-inflammatory injection.
Shin – keeps getting very sore and has progressed to being sore on the bone too, lots of ice.
Calf – Very tight on the top inside, have full flexibility with stretches, very annoying.
Achilles – Wake up with a stiff heel every morning, have been given eccentric loading exercises to help ease the problem.

So apart from that I’m fine! I’ve managed not to let it stop me from completing full training sessions so far.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year!

So, it’s 2011 if you hadn’t already noticed! Time to look back and forward!

I’d say I’ve had a pretty tough year athletics wise and it’s been very frustrating. My ankle injury from February is still causing me problems and wrecked my season. I didn’t achieve the qualification standards for the World Champs or times anyway close to satisfactory. I also had trouble finding a guide runner, but at least this is one of the issues now resolved.

On the up side I’ve been doing better than I anticipated at uni, scoring two distinctions for my first two modules. I’ve been slacking a bit recently, but I plan to find some motivation from somewhere soon!

Calvin and I are still having a rollercoaster of a time. I do my best with him and work so hard to control him, but I fear it will never be enough. I have to accept he’s not going to be Guide Dog of the Year is not like most Guide Dogs and never will be.

Other than the above I’ve not really had an exciting year. My birthday was very low key; I saw JLS and Westlife in concert and attended my first hen do.

My love life has been non-existent. This is no big deal though, as I’m past the desperation years of being a teenager and can quite happily get a long being single. I also need to make the most of being selfish!

This is such a big year for me! My dream is to be at the Paralympics in 2012 and by the time this year is out I’ll know if I’m anywhere close to for filling my aspiration. I am seriously going to work my ass off, as I’m the only one who can make this opportunity possible. At the moment I find myself never happy in training, but only because I’m so determined to reach my goal. How can I be happy with coming last all of the time, blind or not, I want to be as good as everyone else! The qualification standards will be released in March and I truly hope they’ll be within my reach!

To be honest I don’t really care about anything else this year! Yeah I’ll continue to work hard at uni, try and become more independent with Calvin and life in general, but my focus is purely getting those all important qualification standards. I want to be and will be a world class athlete!

Thanks to everyone who makes the effort to read this blog. I write it for me, myself and I, yet also appreciate the comments!

2011, may you and I be the author of our destiny!