I have always felt very privileged to be an elite athlete. It is obviously a very demanding job and while there can be huge highs - like winning gold at a major championships - there can also be real lows. I discovered that last year when injury forced me to miss the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. I was very disappointed because I had trained so hard to get there. But that it is now behind me and I am looking forward to some very exciting times ahead with the 2015 World Championships in Beijing next year and then, of course, the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
The reason I am coming back stronger than ever is largely because of my coach, Mike Holmes, and the work he puts in with me. I think I speak for all athletes when I say that coaches are some of the most important people in the life of an athlete. Not only do they help get athletes like myself get into peak physical condition, they also ensure we are mentally ready for competition. And just as importantly, coaches help support you when you are down so you can get back on your feet after disappointment, brush yourself off, and get ready to go again.
There is another group that are very important to athletes who receive far less of the spotlight – and they are officials. It is a shame that officials don’t get more credit for what they do because without them, there would be no competitive sport at all! I mean, how could you have football without the referee? How could you have tennis without the umpire? And when I am competing in the heptathlon; what would I do if there wasn’t a leading official in position to start the race, or rake the long jump pit, or measure the javelin throws? Athletes, coaches and officials working in harmony and showing respect for each other is vital in order for sport to work at all levels – from the grassroots right through to the elite.
That is why I am absolutely delighted to be supporting the Youth Sport Trust National Talent Camp at Loughborough University today (19 December) where young athletes, coaches and officials will all come together to share ideas.
Around 350 young participants aged between 14-19 years -old will be put through their paces during the intense four-day camp, which is funded by Sport England.
The young people, who themselves will be dreaming of glory at future Olympic and Paralympic Games, were hand-picked by their National Governing Body (NGB) to attend the prestigious camp and come from the seven Olympic and Paralympic sports of Athletics, Boccia, Cycling, Football, Swimming, Tennis and Volleyball.
What is great is that this camp marks the first time ever that young athletes, coaches and officials have all been bought together to train at the same time and location in order to gain insight and understanding into how each other work. That will ultimately help them come to fully appreciate the roles that all three play in creating great sport.
Just like me, many of these young people will face some hard challenges on their journey and some will doubt their ability to achieve their dream. However, if they are committed, work hard and realise the sacrifices they will have to make in order to succeed at the highest level, they will be on the right road.
The camp has the motto “Dream, Develop, Deliver” and I would encourage every young athlete, coach and official attending to do exactly that!