Thursday 19 April 2018

Hard work is done, now it's all about staying fit

British triple jumper Yamile Aldama on how athletes get ready for a major meeting

These last few days before the start of the Olympic Games are a test of an athlete's mental toughness. Now is the time that the mind games begin.

There is no more physical training you can do -- the hard work should have been done months ago -- now it is all about not getting too obsessive, not pushing too hard, avoiding injury.

At this point, some athletes will be hiding injuries, or playing them down. I can understand that. It is a natural reaction not to want your competitors to know you are hurt. I don't care what other people say, you have to be clever about that. I don't want to know too much about other people and I don't want them to know too much about me either.

At Crystal Palace last weekend, I was wearing heavy strapping and landing on the opposite side to protect my shoulder. I lost about 20cm off my jumps because of that, but my rivals were not fooled. The Jamaican athlete, Kimberly Williams, came to me when the competition finished and asked: "How are you feeling?" I said: "Well, I'm getting there." She looked up at the board and said: "Listen, you've got 15 metres there." I had to laugh. She meant: "You tried to fool me but, Yami, I saw the jump, you've got 15 metres in those legs I'm telling you." I said: "Nah, oh, I don't know." People who know about triple jump, they know. That's why I was smiling so much, because I know when I land on my normal side again at the Games it will be a lot better.

At the World Championships in Istanbul this year, when I won the gold medal, my hamstring went after the second round and we had to put heavy strapping on it. But I said to myself, 'I don't want to show any weakness here', because I couldn't jump anymore. I was running around and bounding like nothing had happened, just hoping my second-round jump was big enough to win. Luckily it was.

Going into the Games I will have done just two competitions. In the Diamond League in Rome, I managed only two jumps, at Crystal Palace I managed six. That might not sound like enough to fight for a medal, but, believe me, I have done it before. As an athlete I am used to competing with injury problems, managing the pain, managing the injury.

Before the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005, I had an Achilles problem. It was so bad I could hardly train. A few days before qualifying, I said to my coach, Frank Attoh: "I'm going to take off with the other leg."

He said: "Yami you can't do that, are you mad?" But that's what I did. I jumped with my other leg -- which I'd never done before -- and got through qualifying, which helped me to rest my Achilles and save energy for the final. I finished fourth. In 2006 I was having a terrible season -- the best I had jumped was 14.11m. But I went to the World Indoors in Moscow and jumped 14.86m to win a bronze medal. In 2008, I had a terrible back problem that was so bad I could hardly walk. I went to the World Indoors in Valencia, jumped 14.60m without any training, and finished fifth.

Ideally you want to avoid problems, and that is why I pulled out of the Monaco Grand Prix on Friday night. My shoulder is recovering nicely, so there is no point aggravating it. The body always tells you to stop, but sometimes it is difficult to listen.

Thankfully, I have had the UK Athletics (UKA) medical staff to help me and they have been incredible. At 8.0am on Friday, Andy Burke came to my house just to deliver some probiotic tablets. He comes to see Yami, this old crazy woman, to give her some tablets at 8.0am? Come on! That is amazing.

It makes such a massive difference. Before I was able to join the British team, I did not have regular physio for seven years. I had to pay for it privately, £50 a session, and I could not afford to do that every week. I had to train without any massage. Sometimes my sister or my husband would do it for me -- but it is not the same as a professional.

The help athletes get now is amazing. In that kind of environment, if you don't perform well it must be because you are sick in the head. I might be a bit crazy, but I am definitely not sick in the head.

So bring on the Games, I really can't wait.

Observer

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