With competition season underway and exams approaching fast on the horizon, I’m currently working hard to get the balance right between my sport and my studies. To find out how the scales are currently poised, please keep reading….

Balancing training and revision is not easy.  Whilst both activities require great focus and discipline – in the training of body and mind respectively – there are subtle differences that can lead to disaster when the two are confused.  This occurred to me last night, when I woke from a dream in which I had become convinced that I could ensure a good start to the season by staying up training until 3am the night before my competition, but that I couldn’t possibly revise the day before an exam, as  I needed to rest my brain.  I fear hysteria may be setting in.

However, whilst revision continues to be about as inspiring as an Avram Grant team talk, my training is providing an invigorating, if mildly masochistic, release from pre-exam stress.  This is probably why I find myself writing an athletics blog in a slot labelled “Differential Equations and Fourier Analysis” on my revision timetable.

Though writing on the eve of the first major grand prix competition of the year, my season has already got underway.  It started in Dubai, with a victory in the club competition in the IWAS World Junior Championships.  Though entering the competition as the clear favourite, the win still meant a lot to me.  I have been ranked world number one at junior level for a long time now, but had never had the chance to prove it in a major competition until now.  For me, world rankings are pretty irrelevant, and athletes can only really be judged when in direct competition with each other, so I felt that I only fully justified my junior ranking when I won in Dubai.

The trip started in slightly bizarre fashion, as a combination of high winds and whimsical accommodation management lead to us landing in the wrong airport and then staying in the wrong hotel.  Having taken a brief detour via Abu Dhabi airport due to local gales in Dubai, our official transport proceeded to drive us merrily past the place where we were expecting to stay and delivered us to a completely different hotel.  The new hotel was a lot nicer, though, so nobody complained!

My first competition was the discus, my secondary event.  For this, they combined different disability classifications together, meaning that the event was decided on a points system.  This is used to make it fair when athletes are competing against people deemed more or less disabled than themselves.  It all gets very complicated, but to use an analogy, it’s a bit like different measures of temperature.  Just as 28 degrees Celsius equates to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, 14 metres for an F32 (my classification) equates to about 19 metres for an F33 (the one above).  Anyway, I finished fourth in the competition, with a throw of just over twelve and a half metres.  I felt I threw with good power, but there was a slight flaw in my action – which I won’t bore you with – that meant I was down on my PB of 14.72m. I was frustrated, as I knew my PB would have got me amongst the medals, and I promised to put it right in the club.

This determination and aggression was all well and good, but I suspect that punching an official in the face was taking it a little far.  Having got into my throwing frame, I started to do a couple of drills for my club action – a bit like practice swings in golf.  However, I was not aware that one of the officials had already come up behind me with a club; not until my knuckles connected with his forehead.  Thankfully, it was only a glancing blow – I drew blood when I did a similar thing to my dad – and one grovelling apology later, I was ready to throw.

I was glad to be the first competitor to throw in the club.  I would have expected my main competition to come from North African countries such as Tunisia and Algeria, and with these countries absent from the event I knew I was likely win by a fair distance.  However, I was determined to throw a distance that would have beaten any junior athlete in the world, and it is always easier to throw your best when you don’t know how far you need to throw to win.  In the end, I felt I threw very well, and the headwind I was throwing into probably significantly reduced my eventual result of 25.43m. It was mission accomplished for me, as I don’t know of any junior who could have approached 25 metres into that wind, and though the rest of the competition was a bit of a procession, I felt I earned it with my performance.  It was also great to contribute a gold medal to the Great Britain team, who won the competition with a fantastic total of 45 medals.

Returning from Dubai, I was delighted to be invited to compete for the University of Nottingham in the seated discus at the British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS) Championships a couple of weeks later, in Milton Keynes.  It is the first year that disabled events have been included in the competition, and I was really pleased to be able to represent the university at last, as they have always been very supportive of my sporting endeavours.  My only disappointment was my performance, as I contrived to put together possibly my most atrocious set of throws to date.  It was particularly frustrating because I had put a lot of work into correcting the aforementioned flaw in my discus action, but on the day I just had no rhythm and everything felt out of sync.  In the end, I managed to pull out a half-decent throw to win a competition that I didn’t deserve to, which was a big relief.

It was great to see disabled events included in the competition, and I hope that now they are there, the number of participants will increase as people see a clear path into disabled athletics through their universities.  Given the events’ fledgling status, the qualifying standards are not very high at all, and so it is a fantastic opportunity for athletes – even those who are very new to the sport – to compete in what is a very high-profile national competition.  Given Nottingham’s very positive attitude towards disabled sport, it would be great if we could have more disabled athletes in our team for next year, as the university has the facilities and the mindset to produce very good athletes.

As you can tell from my accounts of my two competitions so far, there are a lot of ups and downs in an athletics season.  I have a string of competitions from now until September, and I have no doubt that my blogs during this period will oscillate between smug self-congratulation and poorly disguised, self-justifying tantrums.  I feel good, however, and I have never come into a season in such good form.  I only wish I felt the same about exams.

Thomas Green

When he’s not struggling with the rigours of a math’s degree at the University of Nottingham, Thomas Green is off representing Great Britain as a Paralympic Athlete. To keep up with his progress his blog entries can be found here http://sportyhannah74.wordpress.com/

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