Last week the curtain came down on the greatest summer of sport the UK had ever seen. For months we were spoiled with a plethora of sporting success, countless medals and inspiring feats that bordered on the unbelievable.
None was more so the case in the Paralympics, where the euphoria of Team GB’s successes was prolonged right through until the end. But all good things must come to an end, and despite the fatigue that comes after four years of intense training and competition, it is still tough to leave it all behind, says Team GB medalist Stef Reid.
Born to British parents in New Zealand and raised in Canada, the cosmopolitan Reid claimed a silver medal in the long jump final after leaping an incredible 5.28 meters, setting a personal best, as well as a Paralympic record in the F44 classification. The International Paralymic Committee’s decision to combine the F42 and F44 classes in the same final saw Reid miss out on gold, but it didn’t take away her elation over the experience of London 2012. “The entire competition was really intense. There is so much adrenaline running through you the whole time, now that we are out of it, you have a period to come down a bit, and it is tough,” she said.
“You’ve just had this incredible experience and you’re sad to leave it behind. But at the same time, I’m exhausted, a post-Paralympics condition. I had the time of my life in London and enjoyed every ounce of it, but now it is time for some much needed rest.”
Looking back on her record jump, Reid maintains that it was important to keep perspective, despite the nerves running through her at the time. When she was 16, Reid was visiting a friend’s cottage in Toronto. Out on the lake, Reid fell off the back of a motorboat being driven by a friend while partaking in bumper-tubing, which Reid likens to waterskiing. The boat did not see Reid in the water, and buoyed upwards by her lifejacket, she was unable to move out of the way. She took the full force of the boat’s propellers to her right foot and lower back. “We were in the middle of nowhere, two hours away from a half-decent hospital and I could just see it in everyone’s faces,” she said. In order to stem the blood flow and ultimately save her life, the lower half of Reid’s leg was amputated.
With such a considerable journey from that day to that final moment of preparation on Sunday 2 September, did her accident come creeping back into her mind as she prepared for that defining leap? “It did, but it is always important to keep perspective. I get really nervous before I start but that perspective is important. I mean, you’ve gone up against boat propellers and won. It gives you a boost. I do think about it sometimes, but if I can get through that, I can get through anything.”
While things may have come crashing back to Earth, typically personified by the home nations’ showings in last week’s World Cup qualifiers, the dreamy period in the summer where newspapers, television and conversation was dominated by wide-eyed medalists, charming interviews and uplifting stories was magical. The Paralympics provided the opportunity to blow people’s minds further. “It was fantastic,” the track and field star added. “I’ve always felt the Paralympics expose people to new things. It can take some effort on the public’s part to get involved because it can be quite confusing if your not familiar with the differing disabilities and classification systems if you haven’t been exposed to them, so the success has been a massive achievement.
“It’s quite funny, typically the Paralympics have always become after the Olympics, and people may have thought of them as a bit of an after thought. But it was completely different in London. I really think it stole the show.”
Taking a well-earned rest, Reid cannot help but cast an eye onto the horizon. With the indoor season approaching, the World Championships next summer, followed by the Commonwealth Games in 2014, plans have already been made. There is also the small matter of Rio 2016 to ponder. “I was so proud to be part of the most competitive women’s long jump final in Paralympic history, I think it speaks volumes of where it is going and where it is going to be in four years The mark I and others have set is going to be obliterated, and by the time Rio comes, I will be targeting jumps of over six meters. And I’m ready for that.”
Stef Reid is an ambassador of the Bupa and UK Sport Partnership. Over the past decade, Bupa has covered more than 29,000 treatments for Britain’s elite athletes. www.bupa.co.uk