Since my last blog I have had my competition. I sat down the night before, got my gear laid out, my numbers on, and looked at the running order.
I had my competition day planned out, or at least as much of it as is possible, stuff like what time to get up, when to eat, what bus to get to the warm up track, when I had to be in for first call etc.
These things I do for most competitions, these are your controllables: the stuff that you have influence over.
I have made out these plans for competitions all my life. I know this routine, sure this is the Paralympics, but you prepare just the same.
A lovely sunny morning greeted me as I woke at 6.30am and I could feel the adrenalin building as I put my singlet on.
I was just 3.5 hours from arguably the biggest competition of my career, and I was feeling good.
I ticked the boxes for my plan one by one. I met my manager for breakfast and we just chilled. I was very relaxed all week and competition day was no different.
I got on the transport to the warm up track and met my coach. We know each other over 20 years, and he knows what makes me tick. He knows what words of encouragement and comfort to use. He knows how to keep me like a caged tiger and not let a competition get to me.
I did my usual warm up, it really was business as usual. I then deliberately stared at the Olympic Stadium on the big screen during warm up, just to feel the electricity that was in the air.
"My work out was good, my arm long, my mind right, and then it was into the call room. Here is where you are truly alone, you’re not even allowed to bring in headphones. This is where the psyching up and in some cases psyching out begins"
My work out was good, my arm long, my mind right, and then it was into the call room. Here is where you are truly alone, you’re not even allowed to bring in headphones. This is where the psyching up and in some cases psyching out begins.
I know many of my opposition and I chat with those that I am closest with. Your bag is checked to ensure advertising is kept covered and that you are not bringing contraband into the stadium: no mobile phone, no headphones - nothing.
Then it is into the second call and you are under the stadium. This is what it must be like for the Munster boys just before a rugby match in Thomond Park.
You hear the crowd, you feel the expectation. Then it’s “Gentlemen for F57/F58 shot put competition, please.” No turning back now - this is it.
I sing a few psyche up songs to myself, take a deep breath or two, and then enter the arena: 81,000 people at 9.40am.
I focus on the shot put circle, greet the officials, and get my spot and lay out my gear.
Only then do I look around this theatre - this is my stage.
I spot tricolours and I get a lift. I am the fifth athlete to go. I go into the circle and again I go through my routine.
I had a nice first practice, but the second one wasn't the way I had planned, then it’s first competition.
I got a rush of blood to the head, and no, not the Coldplay album, although it's ironic that they are playing at the closing ceremony.
This was a poor 10m37cm attempt; I knew what I had done wrong.
Then I had attempt two, over 10m50cm, and finally my last attempt.
"I remember saying "This is the last attempt I may ever have at a Paralympics", as a certain Lions captain said “Empty the tank”, and I was going to do that. Thanks for the advice Paulie O’Connell"
I remember saying "This is the last attempt I may ever have at a Paralympics", as a certain Lions captain said “Empty the tank”, and I was going to do that. Thanks for the advice Paulie O’Connell.
I launched it out 10m70cm. I was happy, not a season’s best, but I had torn ankle ligaments about six weeks ago and I wasn't able to train for the next three weeks, and could only do light work for the next two, that's five weeks without full training.
To be less than a foot off my season’s best after that - I'd take it.
I looked over and got the thumbs up from the coach, a hard man to please, so I was reassured that I had done well.
The competition was won by a Russian - an absolute tank of a man, but a nice guy. Second was a Pole and third a South African.
"I was 13th, just as I was in Atlanta in 1996: Mister Consistency again. Thirteenth in the world, wow, that reads nice"
I was 13th, just as I was in Atlanta in 1996: Mister Consistency again. Thirteenth in the world, wow, that reads nice.
After my event I met family, friends and supporters, the people who helped me get to where I am; they are my absolute rocks of support.
We went for a meal and a few drinks. I won’t going into the detail of that here; those who know me will know the kind of night it was.
Looking back now, after having some time to reflect on it all, I’m proud that I’ve done my best.
I’d struggled in training, but I had competed like a true Irishman and emptied that tank.
To the medical staff of Paralympics Ireland, I really don't think I would've made the circle without your help. I express my total gratitude to Jonathon, Fintan and Dr Joe.
To Pat Furlong my coach, and Darragh Graham my S&C coach, thanks for getting me to the Games, and for all the support and advice.
To Paralympics Ireland and our many sponsors a big thank you as well.
Finally to my girlfriend and family, thanks for being there through everything lately, being my rock during the dark times and just my comfort when I was doubting. Mom and Dad, I hope that I did you proud.