Three years ago Claire Harvey captained the British sitting volleyball team at the Paralympic Games in London. As she told The Mixed Zone in an interview earlier this month, she is now aiming to qualify for the javelin, discus and shot putt at Rio 2016. Claire is presently in Doha competing at the IPC Athletics World Championships. Here she provides an insight into her preparations for the javelin competition.
So it begins. It is the night before my first event. I had my last training session yesterday morning and have spent the day trying to relax and not think too much. Trying is the operative word in that sentence.
We arrived here in Doha 10 days ago. It is my first experience of representing Great Britain at athletics. I’m glad we came early, not only just to get used to the heat (it’s around 35 degrees centigrade every day here), but also to get used to those unwritten protocols and procedures that I guess every sport has. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to them, and don’t realise they exist anymore, yet as a newbie you feel how excluding they can feel. And, of course, as someone who works full-time, and whose coach lives the other end of the country, we have trained more in this week than we could normally.
I feel in an odd position; on the one hand I am a Paralympian and have experienced many world championships and the biggest world stage – the Paralympics themselves. So this should be easy – right? Yet here is the difference: as a thrower I am a complete novice, and despite being at the world championships, I am still at the start of my journey, not 14 like most of the other people in my position. It feels a bit like opening the toolbox to realise you have the equipment to mend a bicycle but have a car in front of you. Don’t panic, keep breathing, it’s just another competition.
I’ve been surprised by the range of disabilities I’ve seen here, much more than for the volleyball I competed in at London 2012, and equally how different disabilities are managed in different countries. Newbies seem to stick out. There are a group of us, all from different countries, who seem to have found each other, smile knowingly and wish each other luck despite the language barrier.
Seeing competitors from other countries, as well as not knowing half of your own team, is an odd thing after being used to doing everything as a big squad in volleyball. My room-mate, Gemma, competed on the first day and is now finished. She is a very experienced thrower and has been great in offering me advice about how to manage the waiting period. We have had to manage differing time schedules: I’ve been training in the mornings (because my competition tomorrow is 9.30am) and Gemma is a late-night-and-lay-in kinda girl. So she comes in quietly while I get up and get dressed in the bathroom before sneaking out!
You can do this, I keep telling myself. I remember the words my coach said before she left the training camp and we moved into the competition venue. “This is about experience. Just relax and do what you do. I believe in you.”
I am sitting here drinking hot milk, trying to convince my body I am tired and my brain to stop whirring so I can sleep. Right, tomorrow it’s now-or-never time. I glance at my GB shirt, numbers pinned on and ready to go. Suddenly I am hit by a wave of pride, excitement and angst. Tomorrow is my chance to prove to the world #thisgirlcan
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