Proud to be British again and aiming for London 2012

Proud to be British again and aiming for London 2012

Sunday, 18 October 2009

As I checked my e-mails a little after 8pm on Friday evening I noticed a message in my in-box from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).  As I opened it and read it I realized this innocent looking e-mail was my official notification from the IAAF, from Pierre Weiss, IAAF General Secretary, granting my request for a change in “status”.

As of Friday, October 16, 2009 the IAAF will now allow me to compete for Great Britain & NI – I was officially “British” again after more than a decade of having competed for the United States. This change means that the IAAF has cleared the way for me to attempt something very unique and to do it in my home country in 2012:  I am going to attempt to compete in an eighth consecutive Olympic Trials in the javelin at the ripe old age of 50!

So the question now is can I do it? Can I stay fit and healthy, avoid injury and sickness for the another three years in one of the most violent, physically stressful events there is? It is hard enough to do when you are young. Now I have all the age related health concerns and physical limitations due to the aging process and all the wear and tear of decades of training and throwing. Well the answer is I don’t know, but I am going to try. I do like a challenge!

This is not the first time I have set myself such lofty, ambitious goal.  In 1968 I was diagnosed with spina bifida and told never to play sports, in fact I was instructed to avoid them altogether for fear that I would become paralyzed. I remember very vividly the doctors looking at the x-rays of my spine and being baffled that I could walk – but I did.
Around the same time as my diagnosis in 1968 I watched the Mexico Olympics in amazement. I was inspired. I knew that’s what I wanted to be – “An Olympian” and I even knew the event I wanted to pursue: the javelin.

The odds were stacked against me, but I was inspired, determined, and very, very stubborn.  I knew I would have to train hard but I also knew I would have to be creative.

I sought out the most knowledgeable coaches I could find and developed a special technique for throwing that would minimize stress on my back, yet allow me to reach my full potential. I began improving dramatically but at every barrier I reached, every new level I got to whether it was school, district, county or national, I was greeted by a slew of  “naysayers” telling me why I could not go any further:  I was too small, too slow, had a weak back, etc.

As I smashed record after record at the school, district, county, national and international level, I was still met with a myriad of reasons why I could not throw any further and repeatedly told that I was going to get injured and my back would give out.  Even during the television coverage on the BBC of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, my good friend and neighbor BBC commentator Ron Pickering talked about my back, my spina bifida.

I was the first Britain to break 90 meters with a Commonwealth record of 91.40m [under the javelin’s old specifications]  in 1985. I was the first person in the world to break the 80m barrier with the new rule javelin with a world record 81.74m in 1986, which I then improved on to a life time best of 83.84m the following year.

Several decades later here I am, still standing, still throwing, still competing and still breaking records. This year I threw 72.49m for a world age-record for a 47-year-old. – a distance that puts me fifth in the 2009 UK Rankings. To date I haven’t had any problems with my back and I have never had a single surgery on any part of my body (again, to date ) – how many javelin throwers can say that?

So as I look toward 2012 I feel confident I can make it to my eight Olympic Trials. Will my back give out, my knees, my body?  Maybe. But my passion and the love for my sport and the Olympics will not waiver.

My Olympic journey began over 40 years ago in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. It has taken me around the world, living in two Olympic cities Los Angeles and Atlanta . It seems only fitting that I end my athletic career on my home turf and hopefully in the Olympic Stadium in 2012. My Olympic journey would then be complete traveling full circle from beginning to end.

Javelin throwing is an explosive fast dynamic event but if I can make to that field in 2012 it would be athletic accomplishment of durability, perseverance a 50 years in the making.  But make no mistake if you see me out there throwing my spear in 2012 it will be as much an artistic statement as athletic accomplishment.  Not because I may be wearing hand painted outfits that match my javelins, although I am not ruling that out, but it will be “performance art” that combines sport and art with time and timing – 50 years of time and a set time and location to perform.

Will my quest have an amazing ending or will it be a sad saga of someone that doesn’t know when to quit? Well I embrace both knowing that either is possible – to succeed one must be willing to fail.

Roald Bradstock represented Britain in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and in 1996 was an alternate for United States Olympic team. Bradstock competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 United States Olympic Trials. In addition to being an Olympic athlete, Bradstock is also an Olympic artist dubbed “The Olympic Picasso”.


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