A cup of tea with Olivia Breen
Our ambassador Olivia Breen talks to us about her Rio Paralympics and how the experience will make her stronger.
Our ambassador Olivia Breen talks to us about her Rio Paralympics experience.
My Rio Paralympics did not go as well as I had hoped for. I was gutted and so disappointed. I have worked so hard over the last four years and made so many sacrifices and to end in a worse position than I did at London was devastating. I was very emotional. My class (T38) has changed so much since 2012 with many of the girls in my group having different disabilities to my cerebral palsy which has meant it has become much faster and harder.
My first event was the 100m. I was quite pleased with my heat as I finished as one of the fastest losers and comforted myself with it being achieved despite a bad start and that it could be improved. I went into the final the following evening feeling positive, and I executed a better race technically. I was ranked seventh and that is where I finished. I was gutted though. I ran a time in Rio which would have won a gold in London and it was over a second faster.
Even with a big personal best the most I could have realistically hoped for was probably fifth. There is supposed to be a review of classification after Rio which hopefully will lead to change and a fairer competition.
It was hard to get myself into a positive mindset after that, but I had to bounce back for the long jump two days later.
I met up with my family and sports therapist, Keith Waldon, who had travelled to Rio to support myself and a para-triathlete. It was great to see them and have help with my mentality. I'm still quite new to the long jump, but I really enjoy it as a competition, as you form a close community with the other girls. There's not the same tension as the 100m and many of the competitors are different.
The event in Rio was large with 13 competitors and eight would make the final. My jumping in training was good in the season but it has not converted itself to competition and my position on the board has been erratic. Rio was fairly typical of that and my first two jumps were no jumps as I jumped over the board. The second one was only about 1cm over the board and it was a big jump - possibly even a bronze medal contending jump. My third needed to be legal so I was too cautious. I jumped way before the board and it was nowhere near long enough to qualify. This really hurt. I was so frustrated as I was so close to getting to the final and none of the final podium positions improved in their first round jumps.
Along with the disappointment of the 100m, I was in a very dark place. I didn't sleep at all that night and to make things worse I was kept confined to my room the next day as, like a number of girls on the team, I had picked up a cold. It was hard to shake myself out of my dark mood. I am really lucky as I have some incredibly supportive friends in the team who know how tough the sport can be and they helped me so much. I also had the support of my family in Rio and my coaches, Jonas and Julie from the UK and my friends and boyfriend.
It wasn't long though before I felt better psychologically and physically. We had a relay team meeting and were told that the decision on who would run would be made just before the race on the Thursday. There can only be two T38s on a relay team. While I knew both of the other T38s were faster than me I was comforted as my coach had been told before the Games that no changes would be made to our double world record-breaking team. I was called into a meeting at 1pm and told I wasn't in the team. I was heartbroken. I have been part of the relay team since we won bronze at London 2012. I understand that a coach would normally run the fastest runners but because I had been told there would be no changes, it was a huge blow.
It will take a while to recover from Rio. It was, however, an incredible experience. Just before my family left I was able to see some of the incredible city. We went up to Christ the Redeemer which was phenomenal and the views were breathtaking. Also the whole village experience is unlike any other competition and I love making friends with other nationalities.
Many people, but particularly disabled people all over the world, are not so blessed. I love sport and the opportunities it has given me. However, the Paralympics should not be simply about glory, gold medals and world records for a tiny proportion of the worldwide disabled population. I did not achieve the glory of a Paralympic medal like many others and did not return home with a world record. However, I am so fortunate in so many ways. I returned to my warm and comfortable home and to my loving family who I know will always support me. I know I will always have a roof over my head and food on the table.
The Games should be about highlighting how amazing disabled people can be when they are given opportunities and leaving behind a legacy to try to improve the conditions in which so many of the worldwide disabled community live.
Seeing some of the conditions in Rio was shocking. If you are disabled and born into poverty in that amazing city your life is even more difficult. I am now taking a break from training - meeting up with friends, eating what I please, going on holiday and thinking about the future. Rio didn't go to plan but I learned a lot as an athlete and as a person, and I know the whole experience will make me stronger.