As the Commonwealth Games 2014 draw to a close, I wanted to share my experience of the games with you before we head on to the IPC European Championships in Swansea only a couple of weeks away.
I got to the village just under a week before my race, one of the first athletes from athletics to arrive. It was quite daunting being one of the first in. The village was so big and we were wedged between the Ozzies and the English. But, I was welcomed in with open arms and a great atmosphere in the Welsh camp as the majority of the other sports had arrived the day before I had.
My training the week leading up to the games went well and during a practice run in the empty Hampden Park, I felt fast sling shotting off the bend putting me in good stead for my race on Monday 28 July. Being inside an empty Hampden Park was incredible! A cauldron meant for footy was in a couple of days turned into a makeshift athletics arena. Standing in the empty stadium, soaking up the scene already a great and awesome spectacle, I tried to imagine what it would be like full… but, nothing could have prepared me for the real thing.
I woke up early for breakfast on Monday, thankfully having managed to sleep the night before. My nerves were setting in as usual, but I knew my training went well after all the injuries and that I was in good form, especially after my performance at the recent anniversary games. I knew a medal was now possible, but which colour was down to me.
I was in the second semi final with the fastest man in the field, Fanie van der Merwe (South African). Qualification was the only thing on my mind and I secured it second fastest in the race and third overall. The noise at the start being next to a Scot was deafening the amount of passion the crowd had for every Scottish athlete was amazing.
After resting at the village, it was now time to head back to the track for the final. Nerves surprisingly hadn’t set in yet, but there was still time. Warming up before the first call, I still wasn’t showing any signs of nerves. It was only when I heard the gun go off for the race before mine that my nerves set in. What a time for them to set in. Just before my race. But, I couldn’t let them take hold of me and run wild. I was so close to achieving my goal so I joined the crowd who were singing along to ‘Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline’ as we set our blocks up which helped to settle my nerves. With my blocks set, tracksuit off and the lane draws announced with the fastest three in lane 3,4 and 5, race time had finally arrived.
Again, I was alongside a Scot and the roar was even more deafening than in the morning. From the time he was announced to ‘on your marks’ I couldn’t hear anything because it was so loud. The gun went and the crowd was amazing. I crossed the finish line not knowing if I’d won a medal or not, so when it came up saying Rhys Jones 12.04 in 3rd place, I was over the moon.
As I explained to the reporters, I’ve had a bit of a nightmare season with a double hernia operation and being in a boot for 2 months after having a bone stress in my foot, so getting to compete was an achievement in itself. Coming away with a bronze medal was incredible!
Next up, the IPC European Championships 2014
As I mentioned earlier, it’s onwards to compete in my own back yard in Swansea and instead of chasing down South Africans, it’ll be Russians who I’ll be fighting against for a spot on the podium. The IPC European Championships takes place from 18 to 23 August 2014 at The University of Swansea. I’ll be racing on 19 August. I look forward to seeing you all there.
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