Sports Massage Therapist, Personal Trainer and Tutor at West Cheshire College, Simon O’Brien, returned to his students this month following a summer supporting athletes at the IAAF World Championships in London.
Simon is no stranger to the competitive circuit having also worked with professional and world-class athletes at the 2012 London Olympic Games and for West Cheshire Colleges’ students his experiences are hugely beneficial, learning about real-life situations and gaining world-class teaching.
As part of the Botswana Training Team, Simon began his World Championship journey in Cardiff, where he worked with athletes in preparation for the two-week competition.
Simon explained: “Just over six years ago I spent a day volunteering my services to every country in the world through the Independent Olympic Committee (IOC). I was then contacted prior to the 2012 Games asking whether I would like to work with the Botswana Team, and of course I said yes.
“Since then, the team has asked that I continue to work with them, which is how my involvement came about this year at the World Championships, and it looks promising for a Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (XXI) appearance in April next year too.
“This year has been possibly the most incredible summer I have experienced and what I couldn’t have prepared for was the media frenzy when the Botswanan 400-metre runner, Isaac Makwala, was barred.”
Isaac Makwala, 30, was set to run in the 400m final but was refused entry into the stadium and barred from competing in order to control a “very virulent” norovirus outbreak. The Athletics’ governing body defended its decision to deny the World Championship medal favourite entry, however there was much speculation surrounding the event.
Simon added: “I certainly didn’t expect to be on the BBC couch alongside Gabby Logan, Denise Lewis, Michael Johnson and Paula Radcliffe – what an experience.
“I essentially became the spokesperson for the Botswana Team, which included an interview with Gaby Logan on the BBC, swiftly followed by a meeting with the Team Manager, President of the Botswana Association and Lord Sebastian Coe to discuss the situation and to ensure a positive outcome for all. It was a crazy week and quite a surreal experience!
“At the end of the meeting, I asked whether we could appeal for Isaac to compete in the 200m, as there was a similar case in 2016, which could be used as a precedent. For Isaac it was certainly the most dramatic 48 hours in his career, however my idea was accepted, we did appeal and he was reinstated into the 200m.”
Isaac subsequently ran a solo time trial, qualifying for the semi-finals, and then, just two hours later, qualified for the final after running even quicker. His popularity since the Championships has risen enormously, along with the entire Botswana Team.
Simon went on to say: “For me, not only was this year’s Championships an unbelievable experience and learning curve, but I was in the presence of my sporting heroes. It was incredible to meet them, let alone be one of five in a high-pressured meeting with Lord Sebastian Coe. It was a true honour. They were all great sports and it was a real pleasure to meet them.”