This second wind of my athletics career was supposed to be smooth sailing, but 2022 has proven that expected truth to be a complete fallacy.
In 2018 (my first comeback year post-achilles tendon rupture and mini retirement) I jumped 6.60m+ to qualify by distance for the European Championships in Berlin that year. Unfortunately, at the 2018 British Championships I finished 5th behind a formidable field in which the Champ hit a Championship record, PB and leap beyond 7 metres.
This felt like a kick in the teeth. I thought, ‘of all years, why does this year have to be the year where female long jump in the UK steps up drastically?’
In 2019, I realised I’d have to rise to the occasion if I had any hope of making the British team at a major champs, especially with my eyes set on the main prize; the real reason for my return to the sandpit – the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
And I rose. I defied the odds for my age (well, at least that’s how it felt when you’re now being considered and referred to as the ‘old’ athlete by commentators and team leaders).
I jumped 6.86m in 2019 – a personal best after seven lean years of pain and frustration, including three surgeries and multiple missed champs.
Fun fact: my years of injury meant that 2018 was the first British Championships I had competed at since my ‘breakthrough’ year in 2012.
I’d missed six outdoor British Championships due to brokenness. Insane.
That’s six years out of the mix. Six years where my body wouldn’t allow me to be healthy enough to contend with the best in Britain, let alone the best in the world.
I’m saying that as a reminder to myself, more than anyone else, to pat myself on the back. Girl, you done good.
BUT… it’s like my motivation, my raison d’être ended in that Tokyo Olympic Final.
My wonderful 2019 year helped me sail through a rocky 2020 and 2021, where I managed 6.75m and demonstrated that I still had it. There was still some spring in these legs yet – enough to make finals anyway.
I’ve been saying this year has been ‘disappointing’ and ‘bad’ and ‘horrendous’. And I think it’s important not to have such negative language. But I also think it’s important to be real. So… as much as ‘unexpected’ was the positive language shift I employed with the help of my incredible insight coach midway through my shocking season, now I’m at the end of the season, I’m switching gears back to reality.
2022 has been below par…to say the least.
I’m not going to say anymore than that because I haven’t done a full debrief yet. I’ll do a solo reflective debrief next week, followed by a 1-2-1 debrief with my coach, then a more holistic one with my team. And then I’ll reassess the plan and motivations for whatever is to come.
I can say now though that, although I’ve felt tremendous shame and disappointment throughout 2022, I won’t be carrying that any further into this year.
I’m not ashamed of who I am and what I’ve achieved up to this point.
I’m not ashamed of trying; of showing up time and again.
I’m not ashamed of putting myself out there.
And, do you know what, I’m not even ashamed anymore of what happened in the Commonwealth Games final and at the European Championships where I couldn’t even make it out of the qualifying round.
I rarely give myself grace for the crap I’m contending with – mentally, emotionally and physically. But, I’m giving myself grace right here and right now.
There are reasons.
Achilles tendonopathy. Knee troubles. Hamstring tear. MCL strain.
But mainly… my head.
One article I read today on Eurosport refers to my ‘mental fragility in Germany’.
Physically – yes, I’d agree my body can be fragile. But mentally – not usually.
Now, though. 2022. I might agree with that diagnosis.
Mental fragility has led me to feel shame at my performances this year.
But mental fragility has also caused these poor performances.
Because, I didn’t follow Jodie Williams’ advice (our 2021 European Indoor Championships’ British team captain) – ‘Back yourself.’
I didn’t trust myself at all.
I’ll tell you in part two next week.
But before then, let me ask you this: what dark cloud of shame is hanging over your head right now? Can you dare to rewrite the narrative, to give yourself grace and to see the strength in who you are and all you’ve achieved up until this point – even if your ‘strength’ is continuing to live and fight another day?
Here’s why rewriting the narrative and shifting your perspective is so important: You are worthy. You are valuable for who you are; not just what you do.
You’re worth and value isn’t tied up in what you do, but who you are.
YOU ARE WORTHY. YOU ARE VALUABLE. YOU ARE LOVED. FOR WHO YOU ARE. NOT WHAT YOU DO.
See you next week?
– Abs x