Libby Clegg: Intense schedule makes Paralympics a mental challenge

Libby Clegg and her guide Chris Clarke are in good shape for the Paralympics. Picture: Getty.Libby Clegg and her guide Chris Clarke are in good shape for the Paralympics. Picture: Getty.
Libby Clegg and her guide Chris Clarke are in good shape for the Paralympics. Picture: Getty.
I'm currently at the Team GB holding camp in Belo Horizonte where excitement about the Paralympics, which start next week, is really starting to build.

Things have been going great, I’m happy to report, as I continue preparing for the T11 100m and 200m. The hotel is really nice and training has been going well. I only have a few more days here in Belo before I head to Rio on Sunday, but the preparation has gone really well so far.

I won’t be going to the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday, unfortunately. As athletes we’re not allowed and I start my competition with the 100m heats the next evening. But I’ll certainly be watching it from the Village.

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Training has been going really well and we’ve had some really good sessions. My coach Joe McDonnell is here. He also coaches another girl on the team, Sophie Hahn, who is a T38 sprinter. My guide runner Chris Clarke is running really well too and, touch wood, we’ve been injury free, so it’s shaping up as well as we could hope.

Coming out here has been great to acclimatise and get rid of the jet lag. And the food has been really nice too, so happy days! The weather has been excellent and is expected to get better as that’s Brazil starting to come out of winter now, as crazy as that sounds with the sun beating down. But there is a bit of breeze at the training track which has been welcome, though it can make it deceptively cool and we have to make sure we get the sun cream on.

I start racing on the evening of the 8th, with the 100m semis on the morning of 9th and the final in the evening. Then my 200m will be over the 12th and 13th. It’s not a bad schedule to be honest. I get two days off between the events but having the three rounds does make it quite intense. It’s what makes the major championships a different challenge to just an ordinary meet or Grand Prix.

It adds a mental challenge to the test as you have to keep your concentration over the space of two days. But I quite like that. When you get to the level of the Paralympics, it’s not just about who is the quickest runner. It’s also who has the mental resilience to deliver.

My brother Stephen is a 400m swimmer in the S13 class and he’s in the GB team too, competing in his first Paralympics. The swimming team aren’t with us at the holding camp. They’ve flown straight into Rio, so he should be there now and hopefully settling in.

He starts his competition on the 12th but I have tickets to go and see him compete on the 14th which I’m really excited about – almost as much as I am for my own races.

My boyfriend Dan Powell was a para judo player at London 2012 but isn’t competing here. But as a happy coincidence he is coming out to Rio to do a project for Microsoft, so I’ll get to see him too. He arrives the day I finish which works out well as I’ll actually be able to spend some time with him. If he was here watching me compete and knowing I had no time to see him would have been frustrating.

My mum and her husband, and my sister and her boyfriend will also be here supporting me and my brother, which will be nice. It’s a big commitment and we really appreciate the efforts they’ve made. Coming this far is an expensive business, so a lot of family and friends just couldn’t get here but it will be good to know there is a little support team out there watching.

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I’ll need all the support I can get as a lot of my rivals are Brazilian so, after having the whole crowd behind me back in London, the shoe will be very much on the other foot. The main one is Terezinha Guilhermina, who has three Paralympic golds and I broke her world record the other month so she’ll be motivated and obviously have the crowd behind her. It should be interesting to say the least. But I’m just eager to get on the track now as it feels like it’s been a long wait.

All the buzz of the Olympics just gets you going too. I didn’t catch much of the athletics as it was on quite late but I loved the gymnastics and the cycling. Team GB absolutely smashed it coming second on the medals table and I guess it’s over to us now. Hopefully we can live up to the expectation. From an athletics point of view I feel we have a really good team and I’m confident we’re going to do well.

Obviously there have been a couple of big issues in the build-up to the Games, the first of which was the banning of the Russian team. I think the IPC made the right decision on that and I fully support it. Ultimately we want a clean sport and that certainly sends a powerful message.

The other has been some of the organisational and funding problems. From an athletics point of view it’s not going to affect me really but it’s not a good situation. Sometimes things like this get blown out of proportion and hopefully things go well and problems get ironed out. Certainly, the organisation we’ve had out here in Belo has been amazing and the Brazilian volunteers have been so friendly and helpful.

Right now I’m just focusing on what I’ve got to do on the track. I don’t want to jinx myself but I feel I’m in a position to do well. Now it’s just a case of getting to Rio and giving it my best shot.

l Channel 4 will broadcast more than 600 hours of the 2016 Paralympics across all platforms, building on the multi award-winning coverage of 2012 and continuing to transform perceptions of disability.

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