If you live in the Bath area, you might spot Ben Rushgrove, British sprinter, silver medallist at Beijing, on his way to the corner shop. He would be the one with the very long stride, "overtaking the other pedestrians on the footpath". His mother has said that as a child, learning to put one foot in front of the other, he had only one speed: fast. "Well," he says, "my mum likes to put that one out there. But, yes, I always remember being enthusiastic about running. I've always wanted to get somewhere quickly. The bottom line is, I am impatient I want things done yesterday. I'm always wanting to be doing something, going somewhere. When I look in my diary and there's nothing in it, my heart sinks. I can relax when the occasion arises, but generally I am happy when I've got something to do." He says he never walks at a leisurely pace.
Fast is Rushgrove's business. He is one of Britain's strongest medal hopes when he takes to the track for the 200m on Friday 31 Aug and the 100m, his preferred event, on Saturday 1 September. He says it is the intensity of the shorter sprint – the months of training, the tense hours of build-up to the off, and then all over before you know it – that he loves. "You don't have the luxury of thinking when you're running. In fact, if you think too much, your brain interferes with your speed. I run the race every time I train. Every time you train, your body learns how to run this race better. Every time you do a start, your body instinctively knows what to do.The idea is that when you turn up in London all you are doing is the same thing you have done a million times."
That's sort of true, of course, but not entirely. Such is Paralympics fervour that Rushgrove can't shop in Sainsbury's without people wishing him good luck. He was an unknown in Beijing, winning his silver despite having two broken bones in his foot. "The interest has skyrocketed." For all the practice races, all the reliance on instinct to take over, when he takes his place on the starting block, the noise of the stadium swirling around him, it won't be a day like any other, will it? Actually, the noise of the stadium is on his mind. Rushgrove is classified as profoundly deaf, though that's not a definition he likes (he prefers: "I function very well in a hearing world"). He runs with a hearing aid and although in his event he isn't alone in that, he worries that the crowd will be so lively he won't be able to hear the starter and vital hundredth-seconds of reaction time may be lost. "It's very important for everyone to be really quiet at the start of the race."
Those fractional moments will be even more important if Rushgrove, who has cerebral palsy, is having what he calls "a CP day". On those days, "the muscle tone goes through the roof. Picking things up becomes more challenging. You have to think more about everything. But if it happens, it's not as if we can say: 'Postpone the race! Rushgrove's having a CP day!' We have to try to work with it." Hot baths help, but when the stadium finally goes quiet, "All I can do is stand on the start line and run as fast as I can. Either it will be good enough or won't be good enough. In athletics it's very stark. You know very quickly whether what you've done is good enough or not. it's quite a brutal reality-check if you cross the line and haven't done what you thought you would."
Rushgrove is "sincerely hoping" for a medal but he promises that Team GB "will do Britain proud. Anybody watching will not be able to not be amazed. They will be flabbergasted by the times and speeds and difficulties these people have, and the way they overcome them."
Article by "Miss.Paula Cocozza"