Kieron Achara was distraught the last time basketball was included in the Commonwealth Games. But only because he was denied the chance to be there.
The Scotland and Glasgow Rocks star was scheduled to travel to Melbourne as part of Team Scotland before an injured shoulder denied him his dream.
Following those Games, his sport was benched again and Achara feared his chance to play on that stage had gone. But, now, with Australia again acting as hosts, it is part of an exciting schedule for next spring’s multi-sport jamboree in Gold Coast.
“I was on the squad for the 2006 Games but I tore my shoulder. I was 23. I got injured in the December but the recovery time was just too long. At that time, we didn’t have a GB team so I thought that was me. I was heartbroken. I cried my wee eyes out. So getting the opportunity now, a little bit later on in my career is a really big thing. I’m just trying to stay healthy.”
But he will not be wrapping himself in cotton wool. “I’ll be staying away from chocolate, staying away from my daughter! I think if you start thinking like that and avoiding stuff, you’re more likely to get hurt so my focus is on off-the-court stuff like extra yoga sessions, more rest, staying away from bad food and alcohol and just looking after my body. I just need to be doing all the right things.”
There is no doubting the excitement felt by Achara. The 34-year-old power forward was part of Team GB at London 2012 but it is the thought of representing Scotland on such a big stage that is thrilling him.
“Everyone talks about the Olympics but competing for Scotland, you always have that soft spot. It’s a great honour to compete for Great Britain but representing Scotland feels so good and so I’m really looking forward to it. My thing, being an older man, I have to make sure I stay healthy because this is my last opportunity. So my focus is on making that final squad for the Scotland team.
“I remember after the 2006 Games, I was out walking near Stirling Castle and all of Team Scotland were there at a reception. I just didn’t want to see anybody because it was heartbreaking. But now I’ve got another opportunity to make a squad so I just need to make sure that I’m fit.”
With Team Scotland hoping to conjure up its most successful overseas Games, the basketball team are looking to contribute to the medal count and help make up for the absence of judo, which they replace.
“We’re quietly confident. England won bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and so, looking at our team now compared to then, we have a lot more professionals and with a lot of the players playing for Glasgow Rocks, I think that’s a definite competitive advantage, having a group of guys training together day in, day out. We’re definitely looking to go there and medal, that’s our goal.
“It’s unfortunate that we weren’t a part of Glasgow 2014 because that would have been the pinnacle but we’re so happy to be a part of the 2018 Games so we’re going to embrace it and if we can show that we can compete at that level, that means a bit more focus on us and people will start to look to us. Glasgow Rocks are doing a great job – we have a great fan base and we’ve got some great sponsorships coming in, so I think the future’s bright for our sport, definitely.”
“I don’t think we capitalised on the Olympic Games but I feel like we’re a lot better prepared domestically for that now. We have to do it on a grander scale using the Commonwealth Games to show kids what they can achieve if they work hard.”