My entry to the Commonwealth Games was far from conventional. Most athletes are notified of their qualification and entrance to the Games. Not me! I was telephoned by one of my training partners, Maggie Lynes, (who was competing in the Ladies Shot Putt for England), and told that my name was on the starting list for the Men's Shot Putt, and Discus! Not surprisingly, I jumped on the next flight to Kuala Lumpur and met up with the rest of the team from Sierra Leone.
Prior to competing in the Commonwealth Games the most organised multi-sports event I had ever competed in was the 'London Youth Games', and the most organised athletics competition was the 'English Schools Championships'! Furthermore, the furthest I had travelled alone was from London to Loughborough, and my biggest competition of the year was the 'National Inter Counties Championships'! So, the prospect of being in Kuala Lumpur, several hundred miles from home, amongst such an array of sporting talent was very daunting, but at the same time very exciting. Up until the Games I had not thrown the Shot seriously as my preparation for the 1998 season was interrupted greatly by a foot injury which resulted in me spending the entire winter with my right foot in plaster.
Once in KL the sheer size of the entire event was very evident, there were banners and posters everywhere. The athletes village was comprised of a series of tower blocks, housing a total of almost 6,000 people. Each apartment had three bedrooms, two toilets, a lounge and a kitchen. Each group of three blocks had its own pool and relaxation area. The focal point of the village was the International Zone, which housed the dining area, shopping and entertainment facilities, as well as a medical centre and dry cleaners.
The atmosphere in the village was surprisingly very relaxed, with athletes from many different nations standing and talking or swapping pins (badges) and kit. It was great to see people such as Jonah Lomu, Denise Lewis, Kelly Holmes and Ivan Thomas in such an environment, away from cameras and reporters. The main stadium which had three tiers, and could hold 92,000 people was as impressive in reality as it was on TV. But it was only full to capacity for the opening and closing ceremonies It was really strange for me as I had watched the opening ceremony on a TV at work, and was then there in KL watching all of the action for myself.
Originally, the Shot was scheduled to have a qualifying round before the final, but the organisers decided to scrap the qualifying round. This meant that the competition became a straight final. This added to my nerves and state of excitement. The competition was scheduled for 4PM, but we had to register 1 or 2 hours before (I can't remember which). We were then held in a holding area, and had our bags checked before being escorted to a second holding area. Knowing that there was going to be such a long time between registering and competing, I decided to stagger my warm up and just keep loose and focused. I could not help noticing the size of my fellow competitors, and it was not long before I realised that I was the smallest one there!
In the competition I was the first one to throw and opened up with a distance of 14.16m, a new Sierra Leonean National Record! In the second round I threw 14.87m, another National Record. In the third round I thought "right, lets let it rip!" I wish I hadn't, as it was a poor effort!!. Not surprisingly I did not make the cut (the top eight, who have another three trials), but at least I can claim that I led the Men's Shot in the second largest multi-sports event in the world! I am very, very pleased with my performance in my first major international appearance, who wouldn't be considering the amount of preparation that I had! I was only in KL for a week, but the experience will stay with me forever. I think one day I'll go back... if only for the shopping.
It was upon my return from the Games that I approached LA Muscle for a sponsorship. Since then they have provided me with my all my nutritional supplements. I am currently using their Explosive Creatine, boy its good stuff!! Obviously my aim for 2000 is to go to the Olympics, and with the backing of LA Muscle this is a hope which could become a reality.
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