Why London should host 2019 World Para Champs - an athlete's perspective

I agree that it is important for other countries to learn how to host and promote a ParaAthletics event so they too can benefit from the way a celebration of diversity transforms a society's culture. However, there is already opportunity for this with annual events like the World Para Athletics Grand Prix Circuit. It is a privilege to host a world championships, not a right. It is reasonable to expect a host nation to demonstrate their ability to engage audiences, sponsors, and media before being awarded the biggest event on the world stage. World class athletes deserve a world class event. At this point in time, the 3 best way to reach and inspire the corners of the world are:

1) Invest in free, high quality live streaming of para athletes doing their thing in a stadium full of excited fans! 

2) Reduce the high entry fees for athletes and support staff to register for the World Para Champs (900 euros to enter the meet - travel, accommodation, and food are on top of that).  High fees prevent nations from bringing full squads, which limit athlete development in those countries

3) Provide opportunities for countries with a desire to host the world champs to be involved in the delivery of a world class event like London 2017 so they can improve their skill set and take administrative expertise back to their countries

For an alternative perspective, you can read Tanni Grey-Thompsons thoughts on why London shouldn't host the event in 2019 http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/wales/40709390

 

A ray of sunshine amidst some very dark IAAF clouds....no, seriously

I confess that my natural tendency is to see the glass half full.  But the title of this blog is the result of serious consideration, not blind optimism.  I mourn with all athletes who have been affected by cheating and denied their moments of glory.  And yet I find recent reports encouraging for the future of athletics.

1.) The science of drug testing has not failed

As an athlete, my impression of drug testing was that it could only catch athletes who carelessly ingested a contaminated supplement.  The test results of intentional dopers were coming back clear because they were smarter than WADA’s scientific protocols.  I would feel hopeless if this were the case because you cannot accuse without proof.  But recent reports suggest the science is good, and we can be confident in our testing system provided it is well funded, independent, and uniformly followed across all nations.  According to the reports, the biological passports of dopers were flagged.  The doping problem lies within the administration that sits above athletics where bribes have been taken and test results ignored.  It sounds strange that I would be comforted by this, but a problem identified makes way for a solution.

2.) Forensic accounting may be the most effective weapon in the fight against doping

Cheating almost always happens in the context of financial gain.  There is always a money trail.  What if the IAAF along with its administrators and support staff were randomly investigated by forensic accountants in the same way athletes are randomly drug tested?  What if high level administrative positions came with a requirement for full disclosure of all bank accounts and business relationships past and present? Yes, this is slightly invasive.  But then again, I pee naked in front of a stranger several times a year. 

3.) Doping is not an “Athletics” problem.

I was so excited to watch Dafne Schippers crowned 200m World Champ in 2015!  But I was angry and infuriated when instead of celebrating, Dafne had to defend herself against reporters who suggested she may not be a clean athlete because she doesn’t have flawless skin.  There is an unfortunate association between athletics and cheating, and while it may be deserved, it should be held in context.  For example, the FIFA scandal, the 2008 financial crisis, and recent concerns about match fixing in tennis all demonstrate that cheating is a human problem, not an athletics one.  Athletics doesn’t have cheating in its DNA.  There is a way forward, and there is hope for a clean future.

 

Athletics has opened itself up to examination.  Things can look grim when you put a spot light on yourself, but it is the only way to improve.  And we have made progress in this country.  To put in perspective, 51 sanctions for doping violations are currently being served in in Great Britain.  55% of those are in rugby, 12% are in boxing, and 4% are in athletics. So, to British Athletics fans, sponsors, and media, please don’t give up on the sport, or on your athletes.

 

Always be prepared to take your own advice....

When you post a blog that gives advice to people on how to act in difficult situations, always double check you are prepared to take your own advice!

I’ve been pretty silent on my blog in 2015.  I was struggling with sessions in March, and then in April, I received the devastating news that I had a prolapsed disc and would not be able to run for the foreseeable future.  I had to make an early exit from the spring training camp in sunny Florida, returned home to an empty house and proceeded to sulk for the next 3 weeks while nursing my back.   I was angry things weren’t going according to my perfect plan.

And then a vague memory about a blog I wrote on my 30th birthday came to mind: Things I would tell my 20 year old athlete self.  Point number four read like this: Make up a list now of all the things you will do when you get injured: new skills you would like to learn, classes you would like to take, internships that interest you.  Notice I said when you get injured, not if.  You are not special; it happens to everyone. It’s far better to use your time productively instead of moping.

Ouch.  Reading it was like being slapped in the face.  But it was a great reminder as to why it is important to do the heavy thinking in advance – it is too hard in tough times because emotions can make things cloudy and limit your perspective.

So, I picked an end date for my pity party, attacked my rehab program with 100% commitment, and decided what I wanted to do with this new block of time I now had for the summer.  In fact, it has been an awesome summer!  I interned as a BBC sports reporter, I competed in my first open water swim race, I auditioned as a weather girl, I was able to say YES to hanging out with friends and family, I developed a love for hiking (climbing Kilimanjaro is now top of my list post Rio 2016!), and I will be walking the catwalk for London Fashion Week!!!!  To top it all off, I actually had a good time rehabbing my back and I am so thankful to the British Athletics staff who worked incredibly hard to keep me fit and motivated.

I am positive things will go off course between now and Rio, and I will once again have to re-adjust my plans.  Knowing myself, I will have to relearn this lesson again, and again, and again.  But hopefully, with two blogs now on record, my learning curve will improve!