Elite Advice: From Injury to Victory

We all face hurdles in our training from time to time. "It's important to remember that you're far from the only person to face a setback, and that how you chose to deal with it can make or break you as an athlete," says Dr Victor Thompson (sportspsychologist.com). Here's how four elites faced down their personal adversities - and came back stronger than ever.

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Athlete: Harry Aikines-Aryeetey
Setback: Injury

Having previously stormed to 100m and 200m gold at the World Youth Champs, Aikines-Aryeetey "expected to win the Europeans in 2007 pretty easily", he says. "But suddenly, spinal stress fractures meant I couldn't even compete."

The break gave him new maturity: "I used to stress over training; having it almost taken away from me reminded me why I love it." He came back 11 months later with a 6.59 60m PB; he's currently the second fastest Brit over 100m.

Aikines-Aryeetey will need to keep on top of his injury recovery techniques if he is to overcome his recent hamstring injury and perform well at the European Indoor Championships on March 4-6. Find out more about Aikines-Aryeetey's Championship chances.

Bounce Back

Under medical guidance, do gentle exercise twice a week until you can run again. Many injured pros aqua-jog or rely, like Aikines-Aryeetey, on walking drills, Pilates and foam roller stretches.

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Athlete: Greg Rutherford
Setback:
Your limits

With a 100m PB of 10.38, Rutherford realised early on that he'd never set a record.

"I'm just not as fast as Bolt - there's as much chance of me running 9.60 as becoming the Queen," he says. "But I see myself as a potential long jump world-beater, so that's where I now focus most of my training. You have to be realistic."

Rethinking his ambitions paid off at the World Championships in Berlin 2009; he beat the previous British long jump record by one centimetre.

Bounce Back

Still racing in the 100m for fun, keeping up some sprint-specific training helped Rutherford adjust: "I'll do three sets of five intervals, running for 2:30 minutes, then 2:40, 2:50 and so on, with 2:00 recovery," he says.

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Athlete: Ian Jones
Setback: Long- term illness

Already respected as an able-bodied athlete, Jones knew by the time he was 16 that his cards were marked by the muscle-wasting condition muscular dystrophy.

"My legs got progressively weaker, so I switched to para-athletics," he says,  admitting that he felt like "the bewildered new guy". He adds, "But all I ever want is to better myself. I'd rather come last with a great PB than win with a disappointing time."

That purist attitude saw Jones scoop bronze at the Beijing Paralympics in the T44 200m and 400m.

Bounce Back

Jones credits his success to extra strength training: "I do core work three times a week and I use the cross-trainer and free weights." 

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Athlete: Craig Pickering
Setback: A stumble

Overwhelmed by the Olympics, Pickering set off early in the 4 x 100m relay at Beijing 2008, causing Team GB to crash out in the heats.

"It was really awkward with the rest of the team," Pickering says. "I got out of the athletes' village for a few days, but raced again within a week. In athletics, all you can do is get on with it."

And that's what he did, clinching victory for GB at last year's Aviva International Match in Glasgow by winning the 60m by 0.002s.

Bounce Back

Pickering's first step was to maturely take responsibility: "I said straight away that it was my fault; that way we could all move on. Now it feels like it happened to a different person," he says. 

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