Steff Reid, photo from British Athletics/Getty Images
Stuart Weir has written for RunBlogRun for perhaps a century. That means I do not remember when he started, but very happy that he is writing for us. Much of the time, Stuart Weir provides you, our reader, with many views from the events he attends, around the world for RunBlogRun. This piece is a bit different. Here is his column on athletes dealing with the heat of competition, in this column, he speaks of Paralympic star Steff Reid.
Thoughts on competition, by Stuart Weir
Do you ever wonder what is going through an athlete’s mind in the heart of the competition? Sometimes you hear an athlete say: “I just concentrate on my own race plan and don’t worry about anyone else”. It sounds good in theory but in practice there are times when the runner has to react to what is going on around them.
Gladiatorial contests are perhaps best seen in field events, when athletes throw or jump alternatively and have enough time waiting their turn to process what is happening. Jonathan Edwards once told me that the greatest adrenalin rush that he knew was to find himself behind with one jump to go, knowing that he had to perform if he were to win.
Some field athletes seem to specialise in coming from behind to win:
In 2016 Michelle Carter won the World Indoor Championship and the Rio Olympic shot put with her final throw. She once told me: “It’s not something I’d try to do, but I just know that on my last throw, that if I haven’t done it on the first five, this is my last chance to get it done. And that’s how it I approach it”.
At the 2015 World Championship Tianna Bartoletta went into the final round of the long jump in fourth place and won with her final jump.
The women’s long jump (T64 amputee class- previously called T44) at the 2018 Anniversary Games was one of the most absorbing competitions I have watched and the winner, 2017 World Champion, Stef Reid, in one of the most compelling interviews I have conducted, shared exactly what was going through her mind.
Steff Reid, photo by Stuart Weir
First of all, let me give you the context and describe what happened this year in London before sharing Reid’s commentary on it. In the T44 long jump final in Rio 2016 Reid had jumped 5.64, her second biggest jump ever. Her problem was that Marie-AmÃ©lie Le Fur jumped over 5.70 four times in the competition – in fact setting a world record 5.83, and then repeating the distance.
A rematch between the two at the 2018 Anniversary Games was an exciting prospect. Le Fur, returning from a year off, opened the competition with 5.54, which would prove to be her best jump. Reid with 5.39 and 5.41 entered round 4, still behind. Then Reid produced the 5.55 she needed and won by 1 centimeter.
She shared with me her thoughts as the competition developed: “I’m really happy with that. I was really pleased with the series because typically I go out and jump big and then never match my opening jump. But this time I was able to take on my coach’s feedback and make it better. It was great because I had to fight right to the end for the win – and only by a centimeter but those are the margins we deal with. I’m proud of myself for holding my nerve and sticking with it
“Coming from behind is a very special place to be in, to trust yourself enough to know that you have that performance because you’re dealing with the voices in your head which are saying: ‘you can’t do it. Settle for second’. And you have to fight against that. Sometimes it’s differences in personality or differences of approach. For me it was having to let go of that, stay in the moment and manage to compete. It was about remembing that Aston [coach Aston Moore] had given me this and this to do and it doesn’t matter what my opponent has done, I just have to go for it and do the best I can. So I was really pleased that I could stick with it and put those voices to bed and do my thing and let her do hers”.
I found that fascinating.
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