Jenny Meadows: Catching Olympic fever

Illness and injury meant medal hopefuls missed the Games but 800m runner put aside her disappointment

For Jenny Meadows and Craig Pickering it is not exactly a case of "After the Lord Mayor's show". For the 2011 European indoor 800m champion and the 2005 European indoor 60m silver medallist there was no invitation to take part in the great London Olympic extravaganza. Like many of Britain's best athletes, they had to watch the party unfold from afar – victims of illness, injury and, ultimately, non-selection.

"It was a bit strange," Meadows confesses. "At first I didn't want to know anything about it. It was tough in the weeks leading up to the Games. Every other advert on television was a sponsor of the Games and I was, like, 'I can't believe that I'm in this situation here, where I'm not going to actually compete.'

"But then I got totally converted by it. I don't think anyone in the whole country could have failed to have caught that Olympic fever. I was so proud to be British. Because everyone was performing so well, it gave you that sense of optimism, thinking, 'Ah, I wonder what I could have done if I had been part of it.' "

Meadows did everything she could have done to have been a part of London 2012, rather than sitting at home on the outskirts of Wigan watching the Games on TV with her husband and coach, Trevor Painter. In fact, the diminutive Lancastrian who goes by the name of "Pocket Rocket" is paying the price for doing rather too much.

After spending six months struggling to overcome an Achilles tendon tear, Meadows made a desperate attempt to get into shape before the selection deadline, only to suffer another setback that ruled her out of the European Championships in Helsinki in June. Instead of returning to action on the post-Olympic circuit, the 31-year-old will be heading to Stockholm this week to see Professor Hakan Alfredson, the world's leading specialist on Achilles injuries.

"We're pretty sure the original injury, the tear of the Achilles, is OK," Meadows says. "But I could have done a little more damage by racing against time. I needed to race before the selection deadline and tried to cut a corner. I tried to race maybe four weeks before I should have and that has affected it.

"We just need to see the best guy in the business to tell us what's going on. It's frustrating, but Trevor and I would do exactly the same if we were given the time again.

"In March we were given the scenario, 'How important is the Olympics?' And we were, like, 'Very important'. I could have decided then, 'I'm not going to try, I'm just going to let it heal.'

"I probably would have been fine by now but because I did rush it I've obviously caused a bit of longer-term damage. But for the rest of our lives we would have been thinking, 'What if? What if?' We're both glad we didn't just sit back."

Pickering, in contrast, had no option other than to sit back and wait for the London Games to unfold without him. "I knew since January that I basically had no chance of making it, so I had a long time to come to terms with it," the 25-year-old sprinter reflects. "I had six months to realise I was going to have to watch the Olympics and not be a part of it. So it wasn't as hard for me as it was for Jenny. I can imagine it was a lot rawer for Jenny."

Like Meadows, Pickering had been a British Olympian at the Beijing Games four years ago. His hopes of making the home Games effectively came to grief when he was told in January that he would need surgery to cure a back problem that had held back his progress for several years. In March he had an operation to remove fragments of disc that had been pressing on the nerves in his back. He was told then that he would not race again until 2013.

"It was quite nice to enjoy all of the sports and events at the Olympics," Pickering says, "because when you're competing at a major championship you don't see anything other than your own event.

"I tried to stay positive, but for certain things it was quite hard. I watched most of the Games at home on television in Loughborough but I was in the stadium for the 100m heats. That was quite hard, and watching the relay too. I just wanted to be part of the team."

The sight of Team GB's Adam Gemili setting off too soon on the final leg in the 4x100m relay heats brought a wry, knowing smile. "I was in exactly the same situation in Beijing," Pickering recalls. "In fact, I went even earlier than he did. I was even worse.

"For me, it was great to see Greg Rutherford win gold in the long jump. I know Greg really well. It kind of brings home that normal people can be successful.

"I'm 25. I'm still young," he says. "This injury has been holding me back for a few years, so now that it's been corrected I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do when I get back racing again."

Five who missed the big party

Jenny Meadows (800m) The European indoor champion has been unable to race in 2012 because of an Achilles injury.

Craig Pickering (100m) The sprinter has been out of action since January after a back operation.

Jodie Williams (100m, 200m) Former world junior 100m champion suffered a torn hamstring at the Olympic trials in June.

Steph Twell (1,500m, 5,000m) After recovering from a triple ankle fracture, a foot injury stopped the Commonwealth 1500m bronze medallist from competing at the trials.

Helen Clitheroe (5,000m) European indoor 3,000m champion suffered a foot injury.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss