Me: “What events are you competing today?”
Her: “Long jump, shot, 200m, sprint hurdles…”
Me: “Oh- we’ll be together for hurdles”
Her: “Behind me. You’ll be behind me.”
Silence as I’m taken aback by her words. She continues.
“What are you running? 18.5? I’m at 17.5. You’ll be behind me.”
I picked up the shot, the made the throw of my life to (briefly) overtake her.
I first met Sandra at the South of England Heptathlon in 2016. My first track race had been 3 months prior and I’d only picked up a javelin the week before. From afar I saw the pale pink cap and the hunched shoulders I came to recognise instantly. For the next 2 days I was subjected to patronising advice and backhanded compliments. “The good thing about doing a really low high jump is that you get more time to recover before shot.”
In that competition, every time I closed my eyes and hoped for a moment of calm, without exception she was in my ear, talking about her training programme, her times, her achievements. Maybe it takes one to know one- I am after all making a show about all of these things in my own sporting existence. However, Sandra’s story always features herself as the heroine, and never, never the idiot.
On every start-line, up until the moment the official shouts “on your marks”, Sandra’s competitors are subjected to tales from her athletic treasure chest. In the case of the race pictured above, she recounted how irritating it was that Moe had always been against her in multi-events, always nudging ahead of her. Moe, who competes for both GB & Nigeria, did indeed just pip us all to the line by several hurdles.
With the pink cap popping up when you least expect it, no athlete is safe from misplaced bragging and pointed criticism.
Yesterday entries opened for the 2018 World Championships in Delft, Netherlands. Have there been any early entries to the TetraDecathlon, I wondered? Lo and behold. One female competitor has signed up. I cannot bloody believe it.