The last rehearsal. The last opportunity to fine tune in the heat of competition. The last time to set down a marker before the big one, the Rio Olympics 2016. Today is London’s Anniversary Games.
In the spirit of anniversaries and at the end of a long day yesterday, I asked Toni to recollect what it was like last time,
“Back in 2012 the level of expectation was off the scales. She was the poster girl for the games. She ‘had’ to win.
I don’t think there was anybody else in the British track and field team for who it would have be seen as a bad thing to get a silver. No one else was under that pressure or scrutiny”.
The view of Jess holding a Union Jack aloft, emblazoned with her name, is one of the defining images of the 2012 Olympic Games. It is one of ‘those’ moments. It has become indelibly printed into our nations’ collective sporting memory. Less well know is the impact that winning had on Toni,
“So after London, you got a ‘heyyy thank god for that’. Not a ‘Raaa we won the Olympics’. I had that depression after the Olympics that everybody has. What should happen is that the end credits go up but they don’t. Life continues. Now what?”
The ‘now what’ has been answered over the last four years, right up to today. I make the point to Toni,
“What should happen is that the end credits go up but they don’t. Life continues. Now what?”
“Well now you know. You’re back again but this time it’s just the amuse-bouche for the main course”.
“That’s one way of looking at it”. Note to self, never use the phrase ‘amuse-bouche’ again.
“How was the rest of the day?”
“OK. Travelling, interviews. Tiring”.
Toni Doing his Best Schoolboy Impression
“And your thoughts about tomorrow?”
“It’s a tough field, a world class field. Hopefully we’ll get to run twice”.
“Is there an argument that being against such a tough field could have a negative impact on Jess?”
“No. We need quality competition to sharpen up and these are specialists in their discipline. They don’t train for six other events. This will be only our third competitive hurdles this season and the other two were in shocking weather conditions. You have to run the engine in”.
“Hence the hope Jess makes it through the first round?”
“Yes, although the Americans are very, very strong. The world’s fastest woman didn’t even make it into the team,” there is that now familiar pause, “Of course, if any of them then followed her to do the high jump after running she’d absolutely hammer them”.
You Might Be Able To Hurdle Fast But Can You Do This?
“You mention making it into the team. There still seems to be some quarters wanting Jess to run the hurdles at Rio once the heptathlon is finished”.
“That’s not going to happen. People underestimate the impact that the Heptathlon has on Jess. She’s not twenty-six anymore. Where it used to take a couple of days to recover it now takes the best part of a week”.
Jess and John talk Recovery
“Oh to be young again. Talking of being young how is Alicia getting on in Poland at the World Juniors?”
“She’s ok. I’ll be keeping tabs throughout the day. Jess doesn’t race until late afternoon”.
Toni stifles a yawn. “Shouldn’t you be getting some shut eye?”
“Yes but Derry has arrived and wants me to join him for a drink”.
“Say hi and send me a photo”
Toni, Wendy Sly, Derry (Wendy Sly was the silver medalist in the infamous Zola Budd/Mary Decker-Slaney race)
“And don’t stay up late. Big day tomorrow”.
Like he doesn’t know….