The Future Starts Now – ‘Impossible to Ignore’?
I’ve been on radio silence since June when I received a short email telling me that I hadn’t been selected for the Tokyo Paralympics.
The email came as a total shock to me at the time. No reason was given. I was in great shape and had just rode a super quick time at a simulation race event at the Manchester Velo. My teammates and coach were equally shocked. I was then in limbo for weeks waiting to find out if I had been given a ‘bi partite’ place – these are, in effect, the spare places given out to riders if there are any space left over following primary selection. I knew it would be a long shot to get one, so it’s at that point I decided to go incognito and deleted all social media apps off my phone.
The entire selection process left me extremely despondent and feeling let down by the selection officials for the Paralympics. I emailed my Programme Manager for an explanation, but nothing was forthcoming, just the offer of a catch up after the games which has never happened. I did bump into the Performance Director at the velodrome who gave me a few minutes of his time to explain that it had been a hard decision to select a team and it’s not that I wasn’t good enough, apparently they “just didn’t have a space for me.”
Clearly there were no guarantees that squads training together for the scheduled early 2020 games would still represent the best possible selections for mid-2021. As you can imagine, it was a very long and arduous task getting myself in prime condition in isolation during lockdown, leaving no stone unturned in the long run up to selection. But it’s a strange and frustrating position to be in having spent 8 long years now working towards a goal of going to the games and winning a gold medal. Knowing that you are competitive enough to be right up there and I would have backed myself to win. Only to be told that you aren’t going because someone somewhere has made a decision that didn’t go in your favour. By email.
The only way I can describe how the Summer felt was like being in a slow car crash. Getting told I wasn’t selected for the team (when it seemed like I was the only one) was the crack in the bumper. As the days and weeks ticked along the damage continued. All of my teammate pals were buzzing about being selected, but also absolutely gutted for me. They stepped up their training as I stepped to one side. They went on to quarantine in the holding camp then began the build up to the games. I got left behind.
I’m proud to have some great friends on the Olympic and Paralympic teams so I had mixed emotions. It’s important to say at this point that this whole scenario had happened once before – 5 years ago – when I wasn’t selected for Rio. Arguably, I wasn’t ready for the Rio games, but as it unfolded I could see that there was at least 1 medal opportunity for me that I missed out on. I proved this by winning at the following World Championships in LA and become a double World Champion during the same year.
It’s been incredibly difficult to train as hard as I have done over the years, and particularly this last year when I’ve taken my fitness to the next level to be in the best shape possible for the games. This had all taken a big toll on my business productivity which I felt I wanted to rectify. I am so lucky to have my own business which I have balanced alongside being on the British Cycling Team. As my teammates went to Tokyo, I immersed myself in work setting a big business target and taking my competitive edge back into the workplace rather than leaving it all on the bike.
When the games came along it was ‘impossible to ignore’ everywhere I turned, even in the queue at the supermarket. This summer ended up being one of the toughest periods of my life, mentally. It made me angry that I was so upset a about it, I felt like someone had died or something, but I was so invested in the whole thing, it had consumed my entire life. I suppose that experiencing a kind of grief is natural. It was great to see my British Cycling teammates perform, but by the end of the slow motion car crash I was pretty exhausted with it all and I wished I had never been involved with British Cycling at all. I couldn’t help thinking that 8 years of heart and soul investment could have been directed into something else which would have given me better fulfilment without the monumental grief and frustration.
Luckily the games came to an end in September and I had the foresight to plan my next challenge in advance. A family house move to the countryside was a superb fresh start for us all, and somewhere to get some headspace- or recover from a new head injury in my case. I had a big crash at track league in Manchester during the week that I moved home, which effected my balance followed by a few other bumps and a big fall of my mountain bike leaving me with some time off my bike to recover and reflect.
My work productivity is now through the roof and my journey with the British Cycling Team isn’t necessarily over at this point. I did have the option of leaving the squad at the end of October, but I really don’t want to leave on such a low. I also need to be careful about decision-making with a head injury. I’m looking forward to being well enough to get the bike back out of the shed and starting again from fresh and see what challenges take my fancy at that point.
I’m still trying to come to terms with this whole episode. The disappointment of feeling somehow not good enough is something we will all experience at some point in our lives, and I’m hoping it is temporary. I know that deep down, I can rest assured that I did everything that was asked of me – my nickname is “100% Jon”! I’m looking forward to redefining what is important to me personally, and creating the new person that I want to be next…
Stay safe, Jon