HAVING a purpose has kept me living over these last 11 years of surgery.

The uncertainty of life with a tumour places considerable stress on your mental health and it would be easy to just give up. So the power of your ‘why’ can get you through some real tough times.  

I knew my chances of appearing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo had slipped away when I was told in 2018 I would need another surgery.

I was okay with this as living is more important than the Games for me. But it also broke my heart to have worked so hard from paralysis in 2016 to finish just over a minute off the podium at the World Championships in Italy in 2018 – on the back of just a few months training – to have it all taken away from me again.

I always have mixed emotions when I chat with my team-mates about racing. On the one hand, I am still so hungry to race and compete. But on the other, I experience so much pain that life off the bike is also appealing.


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With the massive uncertainty of what 2021 will look like from a racing standpoint, it is hard for many of us to find direction.

I’ve targeted completing an Ironman, but is this going to be possible?  

All my friends are training hard for Tokyo, but even one of them admitted to me this week that they had severe doubts as to whether the Games will even go ahead.

This is a very good question as the Covid pandemic does not show any signs of disappearing. At least, not in the next few months.

With so much at stake the IOC this week were adamant the games will go ahead in July. Thomas Bach said that – even though Japan announced a state of emergency and a poll shows a high percentage of the population in that country simply don’t want the Games.

With the Olympic torch relay approaching soon, you can’t help but wonder if they will be prepared to pass it around Japan safely.

Nonetheless, as Team GB start to name athletes for their squad, I was so happy to see my fellow Scot Duncan Scott named on the team. He – along with his swimming team-mates – could be a certain gold medal. If there were such a thing.

Closer to home I know the work my team-mates have put in and for some of them Tokyo represents a real opportunity to medal. They don’t necessarily come around too often.

As I chatted and listened to them speak about all the unknowns going into Olympic year, I started to consider what we can learn from challenges that others have faced and how they got through them. One example I keep returning to is the Stockdale paradox.

You might recall me speaking about it in the past. It’s Captain Stockdale’s experience of surviving a prisoner of war camp.

He told himself: “You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”


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I shared this with my team-mate as I knew he was struggling mentally around selection and training. I told him to just continue training and keep the faith that the Games will happen.

I know for many people this won’t be a priority but for others it is a life’s work; something which might only come around once.

I know now – having missed out on more Games than I have attended – how special they are for any athlete.

Even the opportunity to feel like an Olympic medal could be within your grasp is a very precious thing. As an athlete, I have a bias towards the Games. I want to see them go ahead. But having spent 11 years fighting for my life I am fully aware of the concerns around them.

As I watched those tennis players out in Australia this week, hitting balls around their hotel rooms as they quarantine ahead of the Aussie Open, you do start to wonder how you manage 10,000 athletes, coaches, support staff and media when they all descend on Tokyo.

I guess only time will tell what Tokyo’s destiny will be.

Will it be the games that brings the world together? Or simply the games that never happened?