My Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 4: The School Games

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It was January 2012 when I found out that I had been selected for the School Games, which were to be held at the Olympic Stadium in May. Despite finding out about it myself in January, I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone until the following month!

I did lots of long jump training during those few months, working on my technique. Having dyspraxia and CP meant that new techniques took longer for me to learn (physically and in terms of thought processing), so I needed a more gradual approach. There were a couple of coaches from the athletics club who would coach me and teach me new techniques and often Ros would then break this down into smaller bits. So, for example, if we were looking at three things: getting my arms higher up and straight, getting my knees higher and landing with both of my feet together, then I’d focus on each bit one by one. I’d do a few jumps focusing just on my arms and once I’d got that right I’d work on getting my knees higher and so on. I remember one time when I was worrying about my long jump technique (I think this was in April, so there wasn’t long to go until the School Games), Ros did an extra session with me specifically to practice long jump – I really appreciated that and felt so much better about it afterwards! There were a couple of times where I trained with the mainstream part of the athletics club for long jump but, as great as the people and coaches were, I still felt more comfortable training with the disability section.

After a few months of training, on the 6th May it was time to leave for the School Games. A few of us from my team got the train into London together and we then travelled by coach from King’s Cross to the hotel where we would be staying for the next three nights. I remember already feeling nervous on the coach and I wasn’t actually competing until three days later! I was sharing a room with someone I knew quite well though, so that was nice. We arrived at the hotel and got all our kit. I remember there being some issues with the sizes of our kits, which wasn’t ideal, but thankfully it was all sorted.

The whole of our team, the South East, were together, including able-bodied and disabled athletes.

The opening ceremony took place that evening at the Excel Centre in London, which I still have the menu from!

The following day we had the opportunity to explore the Excel Centre and see some of the other sports, such as wheelchair basketball. There were lots of sports going on across those few days at various locations.

We also had to do revision, unfortunately! I was in year 10 and some of the other team members were in year 11, so we had exams coming up soon. I don’t think any of us actually got a lot done though, given the atmosphere at the time!

The day after that was the Paralympic Test event at the Olympic Stadium, which as I mentioned previously some of my friends in the squad were competing in. Those of us who weren’t competing had the opportunity to see our team mates compete. It was great to see them do so well and also crazy to think that we would be competing there ourselves the next day!

And along came the next day – the day I’d be competing! It was a very early start (although even earlier for my Dad and brother who came to see me compete, they woke up at 4am!). My event was one of the earlier events too. My Dad and brother arrived at the stadium, only to find out that the tickets they had got were the opposite side of the stadium to the long jump pit! I was seated a bit further up from them both and was on the phone to my Dad getting really stressed out, thinking that they wouldn’t be able to watch me compete! In reality there wasn’t a massive amount of people in the stadium so they could quite easily walk round to where the long jump pit was and watch me from there (which is what they did). I was just thinking very literally (no surprise there) and worrying but thankfully it was fine in the end!

I then went down to the indoor warm up area, which was underneath the stadium. It was really busy there. I often found it difficult when the warm up areas were busy, as there was a lot to judge in terms of spatial awareness. I was really nervous but I remember Ros saying to me that it was the same as any other competition I’d done, just a different venue, which was a helpful way of looking at it. It was then time to wait in the call room, where they would register us and check our spikes and numbers (this was the same for any competition which had a call room). 

Now it was time to go out onto the track. It felt so strange walking out onto the track of the Olympic Stadium!

As I went over to the long jump pit I saw that my Dad and brother were there and had got a seat really close to where I was competing, which was great, especially after all my worrying earlier! Ros and another of my athletics coaches were also there. I then saw the long jump pit and the board which you jumped off was two metres away from the pit. I didn’t know about that beforehand and in all the other competitions and training I had taken part in the board had been one metre away from the pit. Whilst I knew I always jumped more than two metres, having to jump so much further back from the pit was a bit of a scary thought!

There was also the worry that the board being different would throw me off and would mean I wouldn’t jump as far and therefore wouldn’t make the pit. There was a chalk box in front of the board too, for visually impaired athletes (as it was a mixed classification event, using the Raza point system). This meant that their distance would be measured from where they jumped in that chalk box rather than from the board itself. I was used to this in other competitions (you just learn to ignore it and go off the board), but it was still another thing to consider. Ros stayed with me while I did a few practice jumps to ensure I was okay with the board (it’s standard in competitions to have a few practice jumps, so that you can ensure your run-up is the correct length). It did feel strange, the board being much further back, but I was alright with it thankfully!

So the practice jumps were finished and it was now time for the actual jumps. I think we had somewhere between four to six jumps in total, it was normally around this amount in competitions. As my athletics coach was nearby, I was able to speak to her between each jump to see what I needed to improve on. I was worried about this beforehand as I wasn’t sure whether it was allowed and then a few months later I saw professional athletes on TV doing the same thing, so that answered my question/worry! I jumped 2.89 metres and came fifth out of six people (it was based on the Raza point system, in case the scoreboard below is confusing!). 

I was a little disappointed with my result (my personal best at the time was 3.06 metres) but it had been an amazing experience! A few months later I actually realised that it was the furthest distance I had jumped that season, so it was better than I thought! 

Before the results were announced, we had to wait in a room inside the stadium for a while. The Raza point system meant that it wasn’t as straightforward as the results being based on who jumped the furthest. The medals were then announced and after that it was time to relax. I watched the rest of the events for the day and at the end of the day our region was announced as the overall winners!

It was then time for the closing ceremony, where we got to see a few performances, including Spellbound from Britain’s Got Talent. I then met with my Dad and Alex and we headed home. What an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity those few days had been! 

Natalie 🙂

Previous posts on disability sport: Disability Sport – A GlossaryDyspraxia and Disability Sport – An Introduction and a Guide to ClassificationMy Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 1: Beginning to Train and CompeteMy Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 2: Continuing Competing and A New DiagnosisMy Experiences in Disability Sport – Part 3: New OpportunitiesMy…


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