Olympic Outlook: ‘Fireworks were exploding in every synapse of my body’
I’ve made it! I’ve officially been selected to represent Team GB in Volleyball at the London 2012 Olympic Games and I am ecstatic.
When I started the journey, I made my stand as a power athlete, quick and fast – it was my strength – but I realise now this was a long distance race to run to selection, not a sprint. For the final cut we had a similar elimination process to the last round of the cuts where they took five of us into a room and cut two people from there. I was in the bottom group last time – it was like the first lap of the race, I was trailing behind, I could see those who were better than me just ahead and I knew that when the time came round again I did not want to be in the last part of the group. So June 29th was D-Day and we were called in for the meeting. We could see faces were looking brave but on the inside, hearts were thumping hard and sweat glands were working overtime – I would know, because I was a victim of it last time. The coach called out the names of those who were to enter the room for the final cut. I didn’t move. At first I thought I was frozen with fear but actually, I didn’t move because my name wasn’t called out. I wasn’t called out! This was the final lap around the track and this time, it was my power that helped give me that sprint finish across the line.
Fireworks were exploding in every synapse of my body but I couldn’t do a victory lap. Not because I didn’t have the stamina to go round again but because of the sadness that followed knowing we had to say goodbye to two more teammates. Since we’ve been training together in Sheffield, we’ve really become a family and it’s hard to see them go through the pain of getting so close to their dreams but not quite making it.
Life as a Team GB athlete didn’t get off to a great start when we went for our first drug testing session a few weeks ago. I made the mistake of visiting the little boy’s room before we went for testing and so an empty bladder, added to the fact that there was an official standing over me watching me trying to go, meant it took me two hours to produce a sample – it was more pressure than being on the court! But I’ve learnt the hard way and I’ll not be making the same mistakes again.
We’ve also had a few days off since selection which was great for me as it meant I had time to travel down to London and spend some time with my family. I’m from Canning Town, only a few stops away from Olympic Park so of course, we headed over to Stratford to see it but I can’t begin to fathom what the Games will be like there. These are the same streets I travelled through when I was growing up, the same streets I played basketball in and now these are the same streets that the greatest event on Earth is taking place in. The postcode may be the same but one thing I know for sure is that I won’t be in the same place. I can imagine it will be a world within a world when I step into that Olympic village.
Training together as the national squad has helped us gel as a team both on and off the court which has been the best thing for us in the lead up to the Games, and now we’re just focussing on ironing out the creases. Our first game is on 29th July against Bulgaria, who are ranked highly in the world, so it won’t be an easy start for us. We’re aiming to make it through to the quarter finals, which is no easy task. Every game will be a David vs Goliath but one thing is for sure, we are not going to rock up without a fight.
Peter Bakare is a Lloyds TSB Local Heroes. In partnership with SportsAid, the programme provides support and funding to 346 of Britain’s most talented developing athletes on their journey to London 2012 and beyond. Follow future stars at facebook.com/lloydstsblocalheroesTagged in: London 2012, olympics, volleyball
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