By Scott Mills
Over the course of 13 days, more than 230,000 spectators turned up to the London stadium in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to celebrate and watch the best Para-athletes compete from around the world at the 2017 ParaWorld Championships.
With David Weir retired from competing competitively on track and others not selected due to not meeting the qualification times to make the team, the Academy were being represented by three athletes from three different countries.
Mickey Bushell MBE (Great Britain), Jabari Knight (Trinidad and Tobago) and Joao Correia (Portugal) had all worked tremendously hard not just to make their respective teams but also to consistently achieve the high-standards demanded from them on a regular basis, whether it be obstacles in their everyday lives or on the track.
First up to compete was Trinidadian Jabari Knight, who had recently been re-classified from a T53 to a T54 so was set to kick things off at the iconic stadium on the opening night of the Championships in the men’s 100m sprint.
Ever since September 2016, Knight had made a decision to change his life forever- gone were the days where partying and girls were the main focus in life, instead swapping them with hours in Richmond Park and at Kingsmeadow athletics track tirelessly putting in hard-efforts of training to make his once forgotten dream a reality.
Knight’s dream was that he would one day medal for his country and although he did not make it out of the heats for both the 100m and 200m events, the hard-work, dedication and sacrifices he had put in to turn himself into a competitive athlete in only a matter of months were starting to pay off.
In fact, some would see his personal performances at the Worlds a failure given he has raced faster times throughout the season, but the self-proclaimed Manchester United fan took the experience differently and for what it was- a stepping stone on his ladder of progression.
He had now got a taste of what it was like to be at a major event and in a world-class and historic stadium, something he needed to learn in order to grow as an athlete.
Abbie Hunnisett was also competing on the opening night and even though she was disappointed with her performance she had done exceptionally well to be at the Championships after suffering from several big injuries.
Another athlete whose dream it was to make the ParaWorld Championships was Portugal’s Joao Correia – an exceptional man that has often helped the Academy for many years and an even better athlete.
For the last few years Correia had set his sights on competing in London for the World Championships and for that same amount of time he had worked hard on his performances as well as always finding the time to help others (something of which the academy is extremely grateful for).
Despite Correia not medalling, the fact he was there was an immense achievement in itself and a dream that he never thought he would achieve.
Due to his condition he is constantly battling pain but he would never let it get in the way of his training whether it be on the track or in the gym because he wanted to fight to achieve his dream to compete for the country he loved.
So when the Portuguese sprinter took to the start line, a huge smile could be seen upon his face almost to say ‘I have done it, against the odds, I have achieved my life-long dream’ and it was brilliant to witness.
It was also an honour and privilege to have the Portuguse team in London with their togetherness and team-spirit which was great to see.
Not only did they give us a great insight of what a united team can be like but we would also like to thank them for the help and support they gave to our coach Jenny Archer MBE who is very thankful for the welcoming atmosphere and support they gave her when she was working with her athlete Joao Correia.
In itself, those achievements for Knight and Correia made the World Championships a success for the academy and for Archer who had worked tireless hard day in. day out to get them to reach their goals, but one of the more experienced heads of the team- Mickey Bushell MBE was about to put the icing on the cake.
During the winter of 2015, Bushell was fighting for his life and on the brink of death with illness which not just left his racing career practically in tatters but his health also hung in the balance.
However, in true fashion the Telford-based athlete did something he had done his whole life and in adversity faught against the odds to make it to Rio to compete in the Paralympic Games for Great Britain with just a few months racing and training under his belt.
However, just when things were looking up for Bushell, he quickly hit another stumbling block on his attempt to return to the podium, with a sixth place finish in Rio, something he described as one of his lowest moments in the sport.
But he was not to be beaten as he picked himself up and alongside his coach Archer, they got their heads down and worked tirelessly hard to make sure the 2012 Paralympic champion would soon return to where he belonged.
Day in, Day out Bushell was pushing himself to his limit whether it be training at the Telford athletics track following Archer’s gut-busting programme or down with the boss in Richmond Park and then at Kingsmeadow during the evenings.
As ever, Archer was constantly coming up with new and interesting training sessions designed to test and push Bushell to his limits, so it wasn’t surprising to see him drenched in sweat with the look of pure exhaustion on his face on a daily basis.
As the day arrived, there was an excitement in the air as many friends, families and supporters of Bushell filled the stadium to show their support.
Easing himself through the heats with ease, there was a confidence about Bushell that had not been seen since before 2015 when the puffer fish facial expressions were regularly followed by silverware.
As he lined-up alongside the world’s best sprinters, you could feel the nerves amongst those close to him willing him on to do well with Archer even too nervous to watch because she was wanting him to medal so badly.
But any doubts were soon wiped away, as ‘Bullet Bushell’ raced away to take the lead up until 70 metres where Canadian Brent Lakatos started to make ground on the Brit.
As they passed the 80m mark, Lakatos just started to edge in front of Bushell where he would just pip him by a few inches for the gold medal.
Upon seeing Bushell cross the line in second place, his coach Archer was overjoyed with emotion as she celebrated yet another achievement- helping an athlete achieve their goals.
For both Archer and her athletes the World Championships were truly a success.
Time and Time again they were written off, and yet again they proved the doubters wrong which is nothing new to Archer who has been doing that for over 20 years and was finally rewarded for it through recieving a World Championship medal of her own.
Once again we would like to say a huge thanks to everyone involved with academy, the photographers at the Championships (in particular Mark Davidson), all of the team’s cyclists, coaches, friends, families and supporters- we couldn’t have succeeded without you.
With the Bullet Bushell back where he belongs and looking to win back what was his and Jabari Knight and Joao Correia realising their dreams the future looks exciting for Jenny Archer and these athletes.