One notable British middle distance athlete once said competition was what he did between injuries.
Certainly, injury plays a frustrating part in an athlete's life and despite taking all precautions injuries happen. The resulting disruption and frustrations are very real and hard for athletes to handle.
Outstanding physiotherapist Rene de Vries when based in Whanganui said on his return from physiotherapist duties at the Zurich Weltklasse Diamond League meeting in 2004 that Kelly Holmes (UK) was a good bet for gold in forthcoming Olympic 1500 metres.
He added that she might possibly succeed in the 800 metres as well. Holmes, later Dame Kelly Holmes, took the Olympic double. De Vries' confidence came from his observation that for the first time in many years she had an injury-free winter build-up and was ready to fire. Perhaps that might be classed as insider trading.
Injuries are hard for sportsmen and women to handle. Many potential Olympic athletes have had their hopes dashed in their preparation and for some it is the end of their Olympic dream.
For young athletes it is often the first setback after a diet of early injury-free success. For some the injury at the time seems devastating and it is interesting how often a niggle and enforced short break before major competition is not the disaster it seemed and the enforced short break works in the athlete's favour with surprisingly good results at the major meet. It is very different when that injury is long term.
I am always impressed by athletes who have persevered doing what they have had to do to rehabilitate and overcome the frustration of a major injury and have returned stronger athletes. Similarly, athletes who, for much of their career, have finished just outside a podium place and have stuck to their training and ambition deserve special respect and admiration.
Many leading Whanganui athletes have suffered the frustration and disappointment of injury. Tayla Brunger, now running for Waikato, had her Year 10 at school plagued with injury and disappointment but persevered to take the sprint double at the Under 20 New Zealand Championships last March and also at New Zealand Schools where she was placed second in the 400m. Brunger is now looking forward to next week's New Zealand Championships in Hastings and a move to the US later in the year.
Genna Maples suffered similar frustrations with a hamstring injury in early October, which led her to move to 300m hurdles where she did not have to handle maximum speed, only to have her hopes dashed on the day of the New Zealand School's final with an unrelated severe and bizarre back injury.
It was back to the drawing board and a new rehabilitation programme while hoping for a USA Track Scholarship without current performances to support her applications.
It has been a battle and there is light at the end of the tunnel with her first podium sprint finish at the Capital Classic since New Zealand Schools in 2019. The 12.20 (slight wind assistance of 2.3 m/s) is encouraging especially after the strongly wind-assisted fast 100m in Whanganui earlier in which she felt understandably tight after the fast run.
Maples almost pulled out of the Wellington event fearing a repeat injury only a fortnight before the New Zealand Championships. On a day when a scholarship to California State looked increasingly likely she is happy that she persevered and chose to run at Newtown. Maples is not there yet but she knows that perseverance has paid off and better is to come.
Maples' former training partner Sophie Williams, who set the track alight at the Wellington New Zealand Schools Championships in December 2019, breaking the 46-year-old Junior 100m records, has had two hamstring injuries in the last year in Auckland, where she is now based. Williams was disappointed with her first track race in 11 months in Hamilton but can take some comfort that she is back and with perseverance progress will come.
Self-belief and understanding that results are never instant will help her rehabilitation. She has the talent and hopefully the determination to fulfil her promise as a sprinter.
The New Zealand Track and Field Championships are now just over a week away with the three-day programme starting in Hastings on March 5. Athletes are in their final phase of preparation and all hope to remain injury-free over the final days.
I will preview the championships next week, looking especially at Whanganui athletes who are part of a larger-than-usual Manawatu/Whanganui team competing in nearby Hawke's Bay.