1 October, 2012

Karen Darke – Post Olympics

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Athlete Blogs and News, Karen Darke

Karen Darke – Post Olympics


Andy asked me how my POD was the other day, and I thought he meant the very comfy portable athlete bed I was sleeping in for the month before the Paralympics, though I couldn’t quite figure why he wanted to know how my bed was given we’d been sleeping in the same one! “Nooo, the post-Olympic thing” he said “Post Olympic Depression, aka POD.” This was a phrase coined earlier in the year but I hadn’t thought about it much since.

“Errrr” I stammered. “Well, yeah, it’s a bit weird.”

‘A bit weird’ is an understatement. I’ve gone from having the most sustained focus ever (physical, mental and emotional), a rigid training programme that defines each part of my day, an amazing team supporting and working with me, the event of a lifetime…not to mention an amazing weekend in the Olympic village, closing ceremony, parade through London (astounding turn outs) to….well….an exhausted body, 1500 emails, a daily stream of more, and a mind that’s not quite sure what to make of it all!

After any ‘big’ thing in life there is always a small hiatus in energy – a ‘come down’ from the experience, a confusion while we reorganise ourselves (inside and out) to a new situation. So I’ve stolen a few hours from the busy-ness to sit and sip a Chai Latte (my favourite drink) in a comfy sofa and to reflect on what’s just been and what next. Here’s a small stream of consciousness about that…

What has been…

I owe so many people so much thanks for enabling the whole experience…I could never have got a silver medal alone…and a nearly bronze (which incidentally was absolutely the right thing to do even though I discovered afterwards that we could have been disqualified…but sometimes people and relationships come before medals!)…the way the British public have got behind the summer of sport is incredible…and it’s so great to see kids with the silver medal…it captures their imagination and seeing their faces (I’ve talked at a few schools) makes me realise that a medal isn’t just a lump of metal after all. It’s a lump of magic…and it can definately inspire a generation. It’s hard to have lost the focus and I’m missing ‘my team’ (thanks team – you know who you are from gym to psych to physiology, nutrition, coaching, friendship, family…)…maybe I’m grieving a bit for a great thing been and gone…I need to let go…that was then and this is now, a new ‘phase’. But it was great!

And what is to come…

People always ask me ‘what next’ after any of the adventures or projects I’ve had, and sometimes it irritates me as I like time and space to absorb what’s just happened before leaping into what next. But, this time I have to leap…into speaking in all sorts of places from schools, charities and businesses, into the World Paratriathlon Championships in New Zealand next month (I’m representing GB but haven’t properly swum or pushed a race chair for more nearly 18 months, yikes), and then the Pole of Possibility in November 2013 (www.poleofpossibility.com) which is super exciting, totally overwhelming and really quite scary. How to raise funds to go, how to raise £1 million for our chose charity Back Up, how to travel over 1000km across Antarctica…there’s so much to do it’s hard to know where to start…and so, I’m sitting drinking Chai Latte, slowing down, taking stock and reminding myself that almost anything we can dream up is possible, but that sometimes, taking a deep breath and slowing down is the best way to move forward. I remind myself that life isn’t a tick list. It’s important to pause, reflect and plan (these things don’t come so naturally to activists like myself) rather than trying to do and solve everything in one day!

Needless to say, life isn’t dull, adventures lie in store and THANK YOU to all of you who have moved me to tears with your messages in so many way – your support about the Games, about my new book Boundless, and just in general. And my favourite story of the week (apart from a train conductor insisting I couldn’t buy a ticket and giving me a bottle of wine instead!!!) is this… I gave a Union Jack flag to a small boy at the closing ceremony and a few days ago his dad sent me a picture of it on the wall at his school, with a story about how a real Paralympic athlete had given it to him underneath. Very cool!!!

Take a look at my site www.karendarke.com where you’ll find details on how you can buy signed copies of my books If you fall and Boundless.

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