Julz Adeniran

There doesn’t seem to have been a blog written in recent weeks that hasn’t touched on the spectacle that was the Olympics Games, and who I am to beg to differ – What. An. Incredible. Fortnight, over 7 years in the making! Despite the months of skepticism and scaremongering, I think I speak for all when I say, I knew, it was going to be a very special two weeks the moment I saw Her Majesty abseil out of a helicopter with James Bond! The ‘Jubilympics’ have so far made for a pretty memorable summer – apparently there’s never been a better time to be British (in which case even Andy Murry’s medal should count towards our tally) – and so let’s look forward to witnessing the sporting heroics of our pièce de résistance, The Paralympic Games! Very best of luck to all of our athletes competing over the next 11 days and in particular to a good friend of mine @Deano_Miller who goes for a medal in the 1500m on Monday evening – let’s ‘ave it Deano!!!

So, what was it like to sit back and watch from the wings, an event I’d dreamt about being part of for the best part of a decade? In a word… Inspiring. (Okay so I wouldn’t be human if this was the complete truth, but it was mostly… honest!)

It’s hard to pick out any one performance above another, but Greg Rutherford’s Gold Medal in the Long Jump particularly struck a chord with me. Here’s a guy who I’ve sat across the table from the nights before our club’s Saturday league fixtures (the very grassroots of British athletics), bantering about one day hitting the big-time, daring to dream… A guy who has always heralded praise and showed immense promise but who has equally so often been thwarted by injury and denied by surgery – memorably described as “fragile” by the commentary team during the qualification round. Well I for one was ecstatic to see “fragile” Greg prove that dreams do come true, it’s as if his fairy-tale win was written in the script. In fact that whole evening was nothing short of sensational, ‘Super Saturday’ as it’s since been coined – if ever a moment of doubt has crept into my head during these last few months, in between glancing begrudgingly at my swollen knee, this was all the inspiration I could have asked for in urging me to get back on the roller-coaster in pursuit of my own Olympic dream, hopefully lying in wait at the end of another 4 year cycle!

However, I think it’s equally important to acknowledge the other side of the pillow, illustrated no better than by ‘Terrible Tuesday’ a mere 72 hours later, which saw the track and the in-field littered with fallen soldiers. As World Champions, former World Record Holders and numerous nailed-on medal favourites such as Phillips Idowu, Liu Xiang and Goldie Sayers all lay victim to the injury lottery, a harsh and at times very cruelly timed reality of elite sport (as I’m learning):

Paula Radcliffe: “My sport is a beautiful sport, the downside is that it can break your heart and spirit many times over”

— Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) July 29, 2012

Aside from cheering on Team GB, I’ve tried to make a positive difference with the extra time I’ve been landed with this summer. I’ve put myself, as well as my story, to good use by assisting a number of youth projects that I’m passionate about seeing succeed. Amongst others, supporting Sport England’s Summer School Games launches and mentoring several groups of 16 year olds as part of the government’s National Citizen Service has been particularly fun, as well as hugely rewarding and a welcome distraction from my sometimes tormentuous rehab programme.

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Without wanting to hyperbolise for effect or sound too over dramatic, rehabilitation from such a severe injury has been by far the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, mentally as much as physically. The painstaking process of building back up strength, mobility, function of the knee and learning to walk properly again before even dreaming of one day going over a hurdle again. Dealing with the self-remonstrating, the grieving, the frustration; all whilst you try and motivate yourself to do one-legged balances and lengths in the pool all summer, whist watching your rivals run PB (Personal Best) after PB on television. I guess it’s almost felt like seeing out a prison sentence, with only one way out and no way to hasten the necessary steps… (potential for a screenplay here, right!?)

If injury is the worst thing about sport, rehab must come a close second… #boring #painful #monotonous #lonely #frustrating

— Julz (@JulzAdeniran) August 22, 2012

…I’ve had upbeat days and I’ve had my fair share of down ones too (just ask my girlfriend Jemima!), but as a good friend recently shared with me: “failure can’t cope with persistence”. I know if I can come back from a setback as big as this one then there is little else to fear, nothing more to lose and few on the start line who will have amassed hunger comparable to my own. 3 long months have now passed since the freak accident and now more than ever the tough need to get going!

Julz Adeniran

Apologies it’s taken so long for an update peeps, truth is it’s been quite difficult to come to terms with, yet alone put into words, how the last 6 weeks have played out…

Not long after my last update I learnt what no athlete wishes to learn 4 weeks before Olympic Trials for a home Games that they’ve been working towards for years. In a small treatment cubicle in North Birmingham, on a damp Thursday morning, physio Mike translated the results of a ‘precautionary’ MRI scan; and in no uncertain terms my worst fears were confirmed.

“I’m afraid it’s not good news, you’ve suffered a serious injury. Your cruciate ligament has ruptured”

I reached to repeatedly hit the ‘rewind button’. Nothing happened. So instead I sat patiently and waited for the “but”. It never came.

In an irreversible instant you’re forced to accept that a dream you’ve clinged to for years is no longer attainable and that the foreseeable future will be a drastically different picture to the one crayoned in your head. Not to mention, as Mike would go on to warn, having to entertain the possibility that you may never be able to return to hurdling and doing what you love to do… Woah, Woah, Woah, hold on just a minute!!!

Did I cry? Obviously not, but thank you for inquiring – it was just a bit of hayfever.

Although, it has taken a while to contend with the shock of it all. Had I been stretchered off the Belgian track after falling I think I would have been more prepared for news of this kind. But having got up straight away, in only mild discomfort, dusted myself off – even opting to walk back to the hotel instead of waiting for the shuttle – I was more annoyed at the time (about the wasted trip and the fact I’d have to wait a whole four days for my next shot at the Olympic A standard) than I was concerned about any serious damage. At worst I thought I’d perhaps bruised the knee cap and that it might be sore for a week or two. But alas, the first time I’ve ever fallen in a race in 9 years of hurdling has brought about one of the worst injuries anyone can suffer in a non-contact sport. What are the chances?!

An unashamedly cruel ending to what has otherwise been a very promising year so far *cue miniature violin solo* but in all seriousness I’m determined to seize opportunity through adversity. The good news is that I don’t require surgery, the remainder of 2012 will consist of rehab, rehab and plenty more rehab but I have a great team around me, a sound rehabilitation program, and I’ll be using the extra time to focus on other aspects of my regime and lifestyle that limited time would normally neglect.

Philosophical snapback on for just a moment: As I’m quickly learning, life as a professional athlete is one hell of an emotional rollercoaster, the highs are high, sudden twists and turns come unannounced and the lows when they come – which they will – are very… very low! Such wouldn’t be as agonising, if ‘progression’ and ‘just reward’ were uniform products of ‘hard-work’ and ‘talent’. Unfortunately the deeper you look the more you realise it’s not always that straightforward. Opportunity, personality and serendipity seem to have as much a steer on ‘success’ as hard work and talent do. Therefore stepping onto the rollercoaster without any guarantee that your hard-work, single minded focus and natural talent will necessarily take you to the heights you so desire is a tough thing to do.

That said my quest remains undeterred, if not a little more challenging. Funding is now going to be THE major hurdle over the next 12-24 months in the lead up to our home Commonwealth Games, but this experience is only stoking my fire. I still firmly believe that hard work and sacrifice do pay off – but I’ll never again forget to read the asterixed small print that details: ‘but not necessarily at a time of your choosing’.

To all injured athletes who can’t or are forced to go the the trials this weekend.” in order to be something, you must go through something

— Linford Christie (@ChristieLinford) June 20, 2012

A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me this year, our time will come! Special thanks to my family and friends, who continue to be an immense help throughout this setback, and to my sponsor Blue Mountain Water for sticking by me through thick and thin. A final thanks to Quentin Cooper (BBC Radio 4 broadcaster, friend and all-round extraordinary person) for inspiring the title of this blog in an exchange of emails a couple of days after the MRI scan results – it made me beam with laughter at a time I just wanted to cry, a sentiment which pretty much sums up the fine line we tread in professional sport.