ADA’ORA’S & JO’S (MUM) PERSPECTIVE WORLD YOUTH CHAMPS IN COLOMBIA (JULY 2015)

ADA’ORA…

I have been asked to write a bit about the competitions I have been in this summer, specifically the World Youth Championships (WYC) in Colombia in July and the Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG) in Samoa in September. I though a good way to do this would be to address some of the questions people have asked me about these competitions.

How were you selected for WYCs?
In order to be selected for WYCs. I had to meet the qualification standard set by British Athletics. My initial aim had been to get qualification for both high jump and heptathlon, but as my heptathlon season hadn’t gone quite according to plan, I began to focus primarily on high jump, and was able to clear the qualification height of 1.78 several times, clearing 1.81 and 1.80 also.

Did you know you might be selected?
Obviously I was aware that I had cleared the standard a good few times, however this by no means secured me a spot. I wasn’t notified about my selection until roughly 2 weeks before I would actually leave for Colombia, so there was a great deal of tension in the weeks running up to the selection notification. We were notified of our selection via phone call and then a letter.

When did you meet the rest of the team?
I knew two or three members of the GB team before Colombia, but a majority of the team were all new faces to me, which I loved, as it meant I got to meet a lot of new people. As a team, we all got on really well, which was great as I know I’ve made some really good friends.

What was it like travelling as a team, were there any rules?
Travelling as a team was really exciting, as we had over 11 hours to get to know each other during our journey!! We were all given quite a lot of freedom regarding what we did in the airport before departure etc, which was nice. We had to wear the correct GB kit at all times.

How was the journey?
To be honest the journey out wasn’t too comfortable, we had two flights, one 11 hour flight to Bogota, the capital of Colombia, and then an internal flight to Cali where we were competing, which was only half an hour. Because of the time difference however, we gained another 6 hours on arrival in Colombia, making the day feel incredibly long!

Where did you stay in Colombia?
We stayed in the Intercontinental Hotel in the centre of Cali, which was a really nice hotel. The German and USA teams were also staying in the hotel. All the coaches and team managers stayed in the same hotel with us.

What were your days like?
Most days would consist of breakfast, training at the warm up track, and then spending time in the hotel and getting to know the other teams. We weren’t allowed out of the hotel as security was quite a big concern. Although there was a pool at the hotel we weren’t allowed in it until the last day as the team managers were keen to keep us out of the sun as much as possible. The Team Managers and coaching team made sure our days were very organised and structured. We also had amazing support from a team doctor and physio, we couldn’t have been better looked after.

What was the stadium like?

The competition stadium itself was HUGE, and was the biggest stadium I have ever competed in. The evening before the first day of competition was when all the teams were allowed to visit and look around the stadium, allowing everyone to meet all of the other athletes and get a feel for the track, it was really amazing!

How was it different competing in Colombia to your usual competitions?
I had experienced the call rooms and using accreditation before at competitions such as English Schools and National Champs, and I was glad that I had a little bit of experience with that for this WYCs. Call up was 70 minutes before the start of the competition, and it was vital you had your accreditation and were on time otherwise they would leave without you. You had to catch a bus from warm up to the stadium so if you were late, there was no chance they would wait. It was also very new to me having to deal with the language barrier, but there were interpreters in the competition area to make it less difficult.

How did you feel about your performance?
I was personally very disappointed with the height I jumped, as I knew that I was capable of much more, however, I was very proud to be able to say that I had finished 6th in my first world championships, I have another year in the ‘Youth’ category and am hoping to improve on this performance in next year’s European Youth Champs.

What was the best thing about being selected?
The experience was one I will never forget, and I had an amazing time competing at such a high level, and meeting lots of new people from all around the world. It has really inspired me to train hard and aim for selection for the European Youth competition next year.

What is your next competition?
My next major competition will be the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa at the beginning of September, which I am incredibly excited about!


JO’S

Ada’ora has had an amazing summer having competed in the World Youth Championships in Colombia and the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa. This has meant a massive learning curve not only for Ada’ora but also for me! I have learned a lot! For instance…

Age Groups

International competitions (or certainly the ones we have experienced this summer) do not work on the same age groupings as domestic competitions and so selection can mean athletes need to compete in specific U18 competitions. In order to be eligible to compete in the WYCs and CYGs athletes had to be born in 1998 or 1999 which is an U18 age group something we are not used to in this country. This can mean the use of different weight shot/javelin etc and for Heptathletes, different distance hurdles to that found in U17 competitions here. Opportunities for competition using U18 weights and distances were put on and athletes were invited to compete.

Selection

For both CYG and WYCs there are strict selection criteria, again something I knew nothing about! Selection policies are available via this link http://www.britishathletics.org.uk/world-class/2015-selection-policies/. If you or your child is interested in competing at an international level it would be well worth spending a bit of time looking at these policies. The policies cover many aspects of selection such as the standard the athlete must reach for their event/s, the timeframe within which the standard must be met and the selection process. One other aspect of the WYC process was that there needed to be a realistic prospect of the athlete achieving a place in the top 8, something which was obviously affected by the performance of athletes all around the world; suddenly I became familiar with the IAAF rankings, available via this link http://www.iaaf.org/home!

The selection policy provided the date of the selection meeting which was only 2 weeks before the team would fly out to Colombia. In order to make this work there was a lot of paperwork to be completed and information provided. All of this build up took place even though there was absolutely no guarantee of selection. It was at this point I began to realise the pressure that athletes put themselves under when pursuing their sport, continually aiming for the selection criteria, preparing for selection but with the very real prospect that you would not be selected and all with just 2 weeks’ notice. Selection for Samoa was slightly different in that this was made with much more notice.

Travel/Accommodation

Ada’ora’s travel arrangements were all made for her and were very smooth and well organised. Sam and I went to watch Ada’ora compete in Colombia and due to the short notice period between selection and competition, we were unable to take advantage of any early bird deals. We booked our accommodation in such a way that we could cancel without incurring charges and did this as soon as we knew that there was a possibility Ada’ora would be selected, flights were a different matter however and proved quite a challenge! We ended up staying in the same hotel as the team in Colombia which is not encouraged by UKA for a variety of understandable reasons however as we had booked in advance we made sure to comply with the requirements of UKA re contact with Ada’ora and all worked out well. Several other families were staying in the same hotel and this meant we were able to travel to and from the track with them. Just as Ada’ora has made many new friends, it has been a real bonus meeting the parents of athletes, some for the first time and with others developing a pre-existing track side acquaintance!

It was made very clear that the athletes are not there on holiday and we respected that, as did Ada’ora and her fellow athletes. Having said that, whilst it was more difficult in Colombia, Team England did make sure that the athletes were able to experience some of the Samoan culture and environment post competition. It was very reassuring to see how well looked after Ada’ora and the other athletes were, I have no concerns about her travelling in the future as part of a British Athletics or England Athletics team.

I suppose one of the main things I have realised this summer is that whilst your child must show massive commitment to reach international competition this commitment is shared to a large extent by the whole family both in the longer run up to selection around training and competing but also in putting life on hold whilst we wait for news re selection. I have learned a lot about the practicalities and requirements of selection and the pressures that this brings both for the athlete and their family. Having said that, I wouldn’t change anything, Ada’ora has had the most amazing summer, she has made new friends from all around the country and world, she has experienced different cultures and competed at the highest level for her age group. Ada’ora has been inspired by everything she has experienced as part of Team England and the British Athletics team and so have I! As I said at the beginning this has been a massive learning curve for me, if anyone has any questions and I can help make it a bit easier for the next North Somerset athlete please do get in touch.