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Commonwealth Games Diary - Day 15

2022 Commonwealth Games Diary by Gary Francis "Gaz" - Third Edition

Commonwealth Games Diary

Hi Everyone

It’s been 8 days since the last diary entry. The main reason for this has been the way the focus on the upcoming Commonwealth Games has really been ramping up in our team, with each athlete moving towards the sharp end of their taper and every detail needing review and repeat and then further review. Also we have had to travel from Mallorca and enter into the Games village in Birmingham and then resettle into the routines that are very unique to such places.

The last five days in Mallorca produced the best training from every member of the group that we’d seen, with the later arrivals finally overcoming the effects of travel and changing time zones. The more I witness it the more I agree with the 1 day for every hour time difference in terms of recovery and adjustment to travel. By 10 days post travel the athletes were swimming fast and recovering well for their next session. The good thing about leaving Mallorca for Birmingham was that is was only a two and a half hour flight and only one hour time difference.

Travel day did not go to plan, however! We travelled in two groups due to difficulties in getting seats on the same flight. That was actually a good thing(in theory) as four members of staff formed an advanced party, arriving in Birmingham by mid-morning and then being able to report back on the processes for getting through the ‘CG Welcome Centre’ which required PCR covid testing which took anything up to five hours according to the estimates of the NZOC. Following that there was a short drive to the CG Village where the staff would make sure all the rooms were ready etc.

Things ran very smoothly for the advanced party who got their PCR test results back within a couple of hours (all negative)and got into the village earlier than expected, reporting back to the rest of us of how easy it had all been.

Of course, our flight was then delayed for an hour, a passenger then boarded and then fell ill, causing another hour and a half delay on the runway before take-off! When we arrived at the Welcome centre the queue for the covid testing was two and a half hours and then our tests took about the same to come back. The only good thing was they were all negative! Then our luggage got lost on the way to the village and was delivered after the athletes had finally got to bed, around 12:30am!! So much for advanced planning!!

Despite the horrible travel day and the frayed levels of patience and goodwill the next day most of the team were back to normal. The team kit – which is a massive improvement on last year’s Tokyo effort, seemed to have a great affect on the whole team with everyone marching off to breakfast fully coordinated, thanks to Sophie Pascoe who quickly assumed the role of kit coordinator and issued whats app instructions to the whole team on what to wear.

The village is very good, compact and tidy and the volunteers are brilliant (as always). Helpful, happy and abundant! The people of Birmingham are really proud of what they have managed to put together in a relatively short period of time. When the team got their first look at the new Competition Pool in Sandwell they were very surprised – it is magnificent and everyone seemed to lift again as they swam in it for the first time.

With all the positivity it’s important not to forget that there is also a lot of hidden anxiety. Competition time is close and the athletes have all got a lot of self-expectation. The team know that they are expected to continue the improvements that we have seen over the past three years and every member of the team is ready to meet that challenge. Today we sat as a team and gave each team member a chance to run through their own race day routines and behaviours and inform everyone else what they like, what they don’t like, how they tend to behave and what they require from the support team. Every team has it’s leaders and we know Lewis Clareburt is a natural leader and Sophie Pascoe is one of the most experienced athletes any team could wish to have leading. Both have already offered great support and guidance to their team mates. But today the inspiration and leadership came from another athlete, who delivered one of the most powerful messages I think any of the staff have witnessed, and certainly caused emotions and adrenalin to rise among all of us. Jesse Reynolds spoke of the need to be strong for each other and not waste energy on negativity. But his real message came when he recounted how his paralympic Dream was nearly shattered in 2016 when he fractured a bone in his leg 10 days before the start of the Rio competition and had to prepare by sitting in a wheelchair for the next nine days. Despite this terrible preparation with everything going wrong he still managed two PBs which earned him two Paralympic finals. The message was clear – you are always capable, even if the preparation isn’t perfect. If you have done the work you can perform!

We are getting close to finding that out now!

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