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.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?