Thursday, 21 October 2010

Delhi Decathlon

Decathlete Tom Reynolds talks about his Commonwealth Games experience.

Well, what a month it has been! Injuries, arguments, last minute technique changes, PB's and great experiences.

Things were looking very bad just over a month ago, a series of back injuries left me limping and unable to do much at all in the weeks before we departed for Portugal.

There were a period of a few days where I thought I wouldn't event be on the plane but thanks to the NI physios Phil, Naoimh and Chris I arrived in Portugal in once piece, was able to do all my planned training and make it through the Decathlon without any major injuries.

Portugal was brilliant, excellent hotel, facilities and weather. It was great having my coach Brendan McConville out there and he managed to completely sort my pole vault out in two sessions. It was good having the rest of the squad training there too and we all supported each other. Towards the end of the week I was getting up at 4.30am to try and adjust my body clock for the time change in India, this made the 26 hour journey to India a little easier.

The first few days in India were surreal, the heat and humidity, meeting Olympic Champions like Steve Hooker and Valerie Villi in the Village and having as much free food and drink as you want 24 hours a day! Stranger still was my first session at the village track; I was doing a quiet shot putt session with my old flatmate Roger Skedd (Scottish Decathlete) when all of a sudden a crowd of people were moving towards us including loads of press, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowls. We didn't have time to put t-shirts on and that is why the press took so much interest in it. Charles and Camilla seemed to be quite amused by our "attire" but they said it was very sensible given the conditions! They were also very interested in learning about the Decathlon. We carried on training and forgot about it, they next day I was hearing from home that it was in every major paper and even on the TV show Loose Women, hopefully it led to a few extra people watching our Decathlon!

The Decathlon itself was two extremely long and hot days of ups and downs. The 100m was brilliant, from the day I was selected I was dreaming of winning my heat in a new PB and if you were watching you could see how happy I was to do this. The time I was dreaming of was 10.99 of course but I guess with my injury and a headwind that was too much to ask. Long Jump was a complete unknown, I hadn't jumped over 6.70 since June and had hardly been able to train for it but a first round argument with the officials about the plastacine not being rolled properly (which lead to me fouling when it shouldn't have been one) was exactly what I needed to fire me to a 7.04m jump and my 2nd best ever. The shot and high jump was a little disappointing but no major losses there. The 400m was 0.01 off my pb and even though I died more than ever before, the 45,000 crowd made it a very enjoyable race. So after day 1 I was 60 points off my PB in 11th place. By the time I had an ice bath and dinner it was about 11.30pm, I perhaps got 3 hours sleep but that is standard Decathlon procedure!

Day 2 and the physios did a great job to get me going in the morning. The main problem was the hurdles, where I had to change my legs in the blocks around becuase of my back injury. This didn't cause many problems for the 100m but in the hurdles it meant I had to take one less stride to hurdle 1, which is a massive change. I managed to do it ok but it was very difficult to adjust to the new rhythm, I felt I should have won the event but once I have had a year to perfect the new technique it will make me much quicker. The discus was solid but it is one of my worst events and needs improved! For me the Pole Vault was the best event, there were only about 3-4 thousand people watching (as opposed to 45 thousand plus for the evening events) but they had obviously never seen Pole Vault before and the noise they made was incredible. I had more arguments with the officials about being given 25 mins warm up time, most of which was spent watching them put up the bar and knocking it down by mistake.

This resulted me having to start the competition without having done a single vault, thankfully everything worked out and I managed to beat my PB from 2007, there is a lot more to come as I could see from the replay screens that I was 25-30cm over 4.60. Javelin was my 2nd best ever but I had been throwing much better in training before the Games with my javelin coach Paddy McGrattin, so I was slightly disappointed, this also meant my chance to break the NI native record was gone, it will have to wait! The 1500 was horrible in that heat and huimidity, i knew I was in PB shape but had completely run out of energy.

In the end I finished 9th with 7210, my second best score ever and still over 400 points better than my PB before 2010. I was 15 points short of my goal of top 8 and 40 points short of 7th place, but this has spurred me on to continue to Glasgow and aim for the top 5. It was a briliant experience that I will never forget, and it was great to do it along with so many friends (three of my uni housemates were in the decathlon too). It was great being with the NI team and supporting each other.

Pictured: Me and Brent Newdick, the silver medalist who lives and trains with my Brother Luke in Auckland!
Me and some of the girls at the closing ceremony.

Follow the Athletics NI Twitter account and Facebook account.