28 October, 2013
Scott Jones remembers the heart-break that drove him to World Championship Gold
Jaguar Academy of Sport Rising Star Scott Jones shares the journey of his rapid rise from missing out on a home Paralympic Games to becoming IPC World Champion, in just twelve months.
My memories of Olympic and Paralympic sport were quite vivid from Beijing 2008, but never did I imagine that four years later I would be pushing to qualify for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. In fact Paralympic sport was not on my radar, I wasn’t disabled and like any other young person I got involved in athletics at my local athletics club Cheltenham and County Harriers, at the age of 9. I joined the junior squad for throws focussing on shot putt and discus and also played some rugby.
One of my sporting idols was Jonathan Edwards; I admired what he achieved and remember watching clips of his World records many times, so it was one of the most surreal moments being interviewed for C4 by Jonathan Edwards at the IPC World Championships this summer.
After suffering a stroke at the age of 12, it was important for me to get back into sport. The Aviva Parallel Success programme through UK Athletics was in fact a huge stepping stone. I was invited to join the Talent ID Squad and received access to some great coaching and found out more about the Paralympic pathway.
My coach Carolyn Franks at Cheltenham Harriers has been a massive influence on my career, helping me progress up the ladder and set my goals higher each year. But I’m not sure either of us dreamed about what actually happened this summer at the IPC World Championships in Lyon.
Thinking back to last year, I know the foundations of my success, the hard work and determination went up to a new level when I missed out on London 2012. A year before the Games, the target of qualifying for the London Paralympics became realistic; I was competing in the F37 discus. The ‘A’ standard was the level I needed to achieve consistently to prove my form to compete at the Games. During the season, I achieved the ‘A’ standard set four or five times, so my hopes of representing GB were high. However the news came that I was not selected for the Paralympics, which was very hard to take. My age had gone against me, I was just 14 and I guess they thought I may not be ready to cope with the level of competition and pressure of a Paralympic Games, but I knew I was ready.
Looking back I was devastated, really heart-broken as something that I had been working towards had been taken away. But it didn’t take too long for me to realise I just needed to work harder to earn my Great Britain kit and represent my country. I did actually watch all my events in the stadium at the Paralympics, it was hard but I decided I would rather be there. It probably gave me that extra hunger to work harder to achieve my goals.
My first taste of international athletics came at the IAAF Diamond League in Dubai which doubled as the IPC Grand Prix. I travelled with a group from UK Athletics and it was an amazing experience for me. I produced two World records in the F32 shot and discus which was incredible, but soon after I was re-classified in Italy to the F34 class. This was certainly a set back at the time, but I knew I could still qualify for the World Championships.
I competed at another IAAF Diamond League in Grosetto and then set my sights on the World Championships; my target was to come in the top 12. I was lucky enough to join the Jaguar Academy of Sport in May and attended the first Talent Day where we met Dame Kelly Holmes, Mark Foster and Chris Hoy. Although I knew Dame Kelly was involved in the Academy and Mentoring and Education programme, I didn’t think she would actually attend and be so involved, which was great. The whole event was brilliant, just receiving the invitation letter was something special. I was so touched to be recognised and be part of such a fantastic opportunity. One of the workshops that came at the perfect time was media training with Sybil Ruscoe and Tom Knight; the session with the Jaguar Academy came about a month after my first media training session with UKA. After two sessions I became very confident with the media, more relaxed and not fazed by speaking to the media, when it might happen to me.
The Prep Camp with UKA for the World Championships was a great experience; it was my first GB vest so expectations weren’t too high. I had some great support from GB Coach Shaun Pickering, he actually adjusted my technique slightly, a small change led to a massive improvement of two metres on my PB. I went into the World Champs ranked 7th in the world, everything was about achieving a PB for me. In the seated throws, we do our series of throws together, so the order can be quite important. I was 4th out of 10, the first three didn’t produce anything special so I felt really good.
I knew as soon as I threw that it was something special, I watched it fly straight, spinning and it just kept going. I saw the distance on the scoreboard just five seconds later, I was just over the moon! The distance was 13.38m on my fifth throw, which put me in 1st place with a World record! I looked at the big screen behind me and it flashed up ‘record du monde’ F34 Shot Putt. It was an incredible feeling. The hardest thing was completing my series of throws, and having it sit and wait for 1 hour and 30 minutes for the other competitors to try and beat me!
The response back home was amazing, I had messages from my teachers at school, my girlfriend, Jen, was watching at home and the number of messages through email, facebook and twitter was quite overwhelming. I just thought ‘wow! One person that really helped me was Rob Womack, who took Olympic Bronze in the Shot Putt in London. He was a bit like my Dad for three weeks and really helped me prepare and stay relaxed.
My Mum, Dad and Coach Carolyn were in the stands watching me, I think it was quite a shock for them as well as me! I would say the most surreal moment of all, was sitting talking to Jonathan Edwards for C4. I never ever thought he would say well done to me for breaking a World Record and shake my hand!
Unfortunately, I have suffered a few setbacks with a shoulder injury since the World Champs, the highs and lows have been quite extreme. I’m waiting to see the surgeon and find out what operation I need to get me back on track. GCSE maths is now my immediate focus, before I take the rest of my GCSE’s in May. I plan to be back fitter and stronger for the 2015 World Champs in Qatar, in the meantime I am also enjoying putting something back into my sport and coaching at Cheltenham and County Harriers. It is my way of saying ‘thank you’ to everyone who has supported me on my journey so far.