The weekend I injured my shoulder I had just been told by the Head Coach at ArcheryGB that I was down as being a medal hopeful at the Rio Paralympics. I couldn't believe it and I couldn't wait to go to Rio. Little did I know that by the end of that weekend I would have shot my bow for the last time for a long time. Being so close to what I was working for, and dreaming of, hit me harder mentally than I ever thought it would. After working so hard for so long prior to the games I needed some time to recover and I don't just mean physically.
Psychologically I was ready to start shooting again this time last year really but I didn't have my hip replacement until March 2019 which took several months to recover from. Then add a couple of short stays in the hospital the end of last year and we find ourselves in 2020! As cliche as it sounds; where does time go?
Today I have my first session at college. I used to train here regularly in the lead up to the last Paralympics. That was a big part in me deciding to come to SGS College back then. They had the courses I wanted to do but also all the facilities I could need to train. I started back at SGS in September last year doing a foundation degree in media production. This was a decision not just for my future in the media industry but also to utilise the facilities again. I can shoot full competition distance in the indoor astroturf, their is a gym with all the equipment you could wish for and then there is the access to things like physios, nutritionists etc.
At SGS I can study, train and work under one roof so to say as I have just taken a job with the college as a support worker in the Media classes for those aged 16-18 (mostly).
I know I have only just started shooting again after a significant amount of time off but it seems to have done me the world of good. I'm mentally ready and stronger than ever and in the best physical shape that I can be in considering my body and condition.
And that's exactly what I am doing; giving it one more try!
Who knew when I started at the South Gloucestershire and Stroud College that I would leave with so much more than grades. Because of my time there I can say I am employed by the BBC in Bristol and do the announcements at the Bristol City Women's home games which are played at the same college campus funnily enough.
I'm not writing this today to tell you about my time doing those things though. This is about the Vixens, the Bristol City WFC, and what they have achieved from being at that college campus too.
At the end of the last seasons they were relegated to the Women's Super League 2 (WSL2) which naturally is gutting and there is no way of sugar coating that. But when new manager Willie Kirk came in and there were more transfers than I can count on two hands, even during the later end of this season, the team managed to do something super!
They talk about Paralympians being Super humans but the Vixens have been Super Women's this season. Yes they are supported by Bristol Sport but they are technically a semi-professional team with most players still trying to juggle jobs and families alongside the football. Having not much funding and not as much time as some teams do it was always going to be a rocky road. But I like to think its quality over quantity and Willie's Women fit this definition well.
As the season went on they climbed the table to the top and stayed there. Only a season after relegation. Because when they got knocked down instead of feeling defeated they felt challenged and used that to get themselves right back to where they belong, at the top of the game.
The best way to look at it is that by being relegated they had time to take a step back and look at the full jigsaw, having time to change a few pieces to make sure the picture looked complete. This was timed to a tee as last night they were promoted back up to THE Women's Super League. Super Women back in the Super League. It doesn't get much more cliche than that but I just hope that they other teams are ready for the Vixens because this is definitely a group of girls who you can't judge by their cover. What the Lion cannot do the Fox can! Remember this!
It has been a privilege to do the announcements at their games, even on Valentines day, and have a chance to interview and befriend numerous players and staff members and I am really looking forward to coming forward with you all!
Well there are many quotes people use when things don't go your way to make you feel better. Primarily "everything happens for a reason". Which, I think, is true. But at that moment in time when your dreams get pulled out from underneath you all you want to know is why?
Which is exactly how I have felt many times. This time it's different though. Missing out on London 2012 because of having glandular fever and a visit to Intensive Care was hard enough and I vowed I wouldn't let anything stop me making the next games once I knew I had a chance of that in archery.
But what a roller coaster that has been to say the least. One with loop the loops and cork screws, big drops and sudden halts. Making the GB squad December 2013 was the perfect christmas present and I spend 2014 representing Great Britain in a number of international tournaments. Even winning a European Championships Bronze and breaking World Records.
But over the course of that summer I got ill, from a parasite I got in Bangkok in the March which hit my digestive system hard and the doctors even threatened feeding tubes at one point, which I refused, but that lead to a long road to recovery. I still can't eat a number of foods now. But I can eat!
Within days of recovering from that I re-broke my thumb ruling out the 2015 season. Many people saying everything happens for a reason of course and I used that to motivate me. A year where I had to rest and crack on with my college work. Before facing the season heading into the Olympics and Paralympics ready to earn my own place in the team this time round. But ... don't be silly Chloe, that isn't happening. A new injury threatened to rule me out of this years games, and that wasn't just a threat. The surgery I had 8 weeks ago secured my ticket out of the games, not on the flight to Rio.
Everyone again throwing the everything happens for a reason quote at me. Telling me how I don't want to go to Rio cause of the Zika virus. Which is true in a way, and I have an opportunity with the BBC which I wouldn't have got if I made the games. So there is the silver lining here for sure.
But everyone seems to forget that not only have I been working the last 4 years to get back into sport and make the Rio Games. I did the same thing before the London Games. 8 years out of a 20 years olds life spent trying to make the biggest sporting event ever. To not make it twice. But thats not just 8 years of my life. Thats 8 years of my family and friends lives too. All of which are backing me 110% to make it third time lucky to secure my place in the 2020 Games in Toyko.
Here is where I am going to be brutally honest though. It sucks, and it hurts. I am proud of every single person who made the ParalympicsGB Team. But every post and picture I see on social media is like salt in a wound. I'm the sort of person to be able to tell you I'm fine about all this, when underneath I want nothing more than to be doing exactly what every other team member are doing.
The kit measurements Paralympics GB asked for. The money saved for my family to join me. The medal the coach told me I would win there. All gone in the blink of an eye. Because that is how short life is, and why everyone should make the most of every second of the day and every opportunity presented to them.
I have spent the last 8 years dedicated to sport, but because I live with Muscular Dystrophy (a muscle wasting condition with no cure) I know what its like for things to change over night. To stay in ICU, to lose a 3rd of your muscle strength in 2 weeks etc etc. Living with a condition that makes me weak has only made me stronger.
So where am I at right now? Well I still ache inside about not making the Paralympic and I am petrified that I may not ever be able to shoot again and yes that is something that I would find hard. But it won't be the end. Because I also have 7 GCSE's A*-B, 6 A Levels of A* Equivalents and work placement at BBC Radio Bristol. For someone who has lost something that meant everything to them, I still have so much, and if I can do that, tell me this. Why can't you? Because there is no such thing as I can't, only I'll try!
I like to say there are no limits to what you can achieve unless you limit yourself. So no matter how many bumps in the road you face, the hardest roads are always the ones worth taking and if any point you don't think you are going in the right direction there are always turnings and roundabouts along the way.
Don't be afraid of change and challenges. It will all make you stronger and one day when someone says everything happens for a reason. You will look back and see exactly what they mean. The past is the past yes but sometimes you need to look back to see just how far you have come!
Jacob Croot is a 19 year old who studies and trains at the Bristol Academy of Sport. Following the loss of the Greatest that is Muhammad Ali, I spoke to the lightweight champion to see how he plans to follow in his gloves prints.
Jacob hasn’t always done boxing, just before he turned 5 Jacob started playing rugby and then spent the 10 years after doing just that. One day in December 2011 he tagged along with a friend to a training session and quickly found he was good and I quote “had a natural talent for punching people in the face”.
The next step was to start studying and training at the South Gloucestershire and Stroud College which just happens to be home to the Bristol Academy of Sport, which is highly successful in a number of sports including boxing. Being at the SGS WISE Campus has given Jacob the chance to study 4 A Level subjects, gain a level 1 coaching certificate and train at the same time, he told me “I came to the college because my dream was to further myself in my career of boxing and then having the academic side of the college alongside as well it was a great bonus to have such a good qualification“.
To name Jacob’s achievements to date:
1x bronze medalist in Haringey box cup
1x Silver medalist in Haringey box cup
Western counties senior elite belt holder
1x bronze medalist in the three nations
international against Wales and Scotland
2x Gold medalist in Ireland box cup
2x National finalist
England international representative
Silver medalist in Cyprus box cup
The clearly very talented boxer said that “Everything I've achieved in my boxing, for example becoming an England international representative, I'm sure I couldn't of done it without the training at the college given by Craig Turner (Bristol Academy of Sport Boxing Coach)”.
Muhammad Ali was a massive inspiration to Jacob so losing him was gutting. He said that “he was a hero and an inspiration to many even myself, he was such a character, funny, everybody loved it when he argued with his opponents on the build up to fights, he was a great boxer and a fine gentleman. I never seen a man of that build move as fast as Muhammad Ali did! He was the greatest of all time”.
So naturally the next thing I had to ask was whether Jacob saw himself becoming one of the greatest too? “I have always been competitive, massively committed and dedicated to learn and to be the best that I can be. So with how far I have got in the short 4 years I have been boxing I can confidently say and believe that I will become the greatest someday and I won't stop until I'm there! So yeah Muhammad Ali's level”. In two weeks time he will be back in Haringey to see if he can win gold this time, which will add another achievement to already a long list.
Hopefully Jacob won’t be getting any pebbles in his shoes and will be able to face the mountains ready. Representing your country is never easy but it is very clear that this rising star has all the right punch lines and certainly has the right fists to match!