The Olympics have been and gone, leaving us with some fantastic memories, that will go down in sporting history, hopefully, acting as the catalyst to inspire the next generation of athletes ahead of the 2024 Olympics games and even, for Tokyo 2020.
Before Rio, London and even Beijing, the 16 day sporting event left a huge impression on me when I started my quest in the sporting world.
In 2003, I was loving life competing in the triple jump. Spotted by my then P.E. teacher, Mr Bell, I was out-jumping all the other lads in my group, during the the summer curriculum of athletics. I couldn’t understand how they got hop, step and jump mixed up – this was so easy for me. Of course, some didn’t like it and used stones to try put me off while I jumped, it didn’t, I just kept jumping further – I was untouchable in sprints and jumps but not the throws!
At the same time, I was getting, thankfully, pulled away from a bad crowd. I’d be out every night until late, rather than spending at least one night, committed to school work, looking for a bit of trouble. I should mention that I was avoided drink/drugs/smoking – that, I knew then, was a massive NO in terms of life, I have my parents to thank for bringing me up with dignity and common sense.
Anyway, during a local competition, the Durham County Schools Championships, I’d lost for the first time in two, well, competitions. I’d jumped 10.68m and narrowly missed a spot to qualify for the English Schools Championships – a mini Olympics for young athletes and the birthplace for some of Britain’s best track and field athletes you see on TV.
I’d been scouted (sort of) by Jared Deacon, an Olympian who had competed for his country regularly in 400m and well known in the area. He suggested to my parents that I head to Gypsies Green Stadium and train with South Shields Harriers,
WOW! Me, being tipped by an Olympian to further my triple jumping?! Incredible. However, me being utterly shy and pathetically stubborn, I put off joining and competing with them for weeks, choosing to go out again a poor life choice but fate would have it, would deal a blow to the arm (literally) to make sure I didn’t head towards a dark path.
My friend, Nick, the school sports hero, untouchable at every sport, talented in everything he was involved with, he was a fine young combined event athlete. Representing England, ranked second in the country at one point and even shared a presence of our Golden Girl, Jessica Ennis-Hill at once time, I believe – he was in the local paper more times than I could count!
He must of heard who I was and, not turning up to train, he came over while I was waiting in the lunch line and slammed home the biggest dead arm I’ve ever received, “You coming to train then, Briggs?”
“Erm, yeah, I can do” I replied. “Good lad!” and off he went!
I showed up and enjoyed the coaching that was on offer, I didn’t get to train with Nick for a while – I’ll get to that later. However, as much as I liked trying new events, I wasn’t feeling athletics for some reason, I wasn’t really clicking with the sport, it was a difficult 2003/04 – then Athens came along.
The Olympics were coming home. The birthplace of sports (almost), was making it’s return and everyone was glued to their TV to follow sports men and women do their upmost to collect the coveted gold, silver and bronze medals available.
This was around the time that me and Nick were becoming close friends, thanks mainly to training together. We were labelled the Rocky and Apollo of training, which, being Rocky fans, we enjoyed.
Egging each other on for sprint reps, throws and gym sessions, we’d constantly be in competition to up each other’s game, with a huge dish of banter served along with this – it made training that more fun.
I can vaguely remember watching some of the athletics around then – more so sadly, watching Paula Radcliffe dropping out the marathon, an event she was hotly tipped to win. Of course, I witnessed the glorious men’s 4 x 100m race as we, by a nipple, won the gold ahead of the US Team – that was special.
In or around then, Christian Olsson had won triple jump gold in 17.79m. Jonathan Edwards had been my idol from day one in triple jumping, but he’d retired and Olsson was one jumper I’d admired. I watched his jumps, the replays, seen the pictures – YouTube wasn’t around then nor was social media, so it was hard to keep up other than reading newspapers.
From then, I was inspired.
I took training serious, dropped football and the negative friends, making new ones, to this day, I still see. Although it wasn’t triple jump training at first, I enjoyed long jump, again it was second nature. Me and Nick would stick on our competitive hats and try pull each other on in training – jumping on a crash mat rather than in a pit, was how we learned, if we jumped clear of the mat or jumped 4/5 steps, we were on a winner, it worked well for us.
Good things must come to an end however and he would be picked up to further his throwing events and I was forwarded to a sprints coach Matt Wood, who would be come a very good friend of mine over time. However, still, to this day, me and Nick remain friends, although, I don’t think we’re quite the Rocky and Apollo athletes as we were then, now!
I’d love to write more about it, maybe I will, but it would take over 600 pages (I’m exaggerating or am I?) to talk about my life in athletics, mainly thanks to the Olympics.
Sport has helped me get of sticky situations, learn life hacks and even shown me that there’s so many doors to keep fit, as well as staying away from negative people.
It’s helped me fall in love with sport that I never knew about and make friends in and around it. We should be thankful that our generation of fans got to witness an Olympics and Paralympics in our home country, something which will never happen in my lifetime, anyway – hopefully and so far, so good, it’s inspiring younger people to take up sport.
Actually, if it wasn’t for athletics, this website, my YouTube channel, friends and even my partner, Emma, wouldn’t be in my life and I’d hate to see where I’d be had I not jumped far as I did back in 2003.
Sorry, it was a long one but it’s a topic that I’m very passionate about! Especially how it’s mage a huge impact in my life and future also.
I want to know is, what inspired you to take up sport?!