David in a recent advert for Maximuscle
Heartbroken Gillick ready to reinvent himself
David Gillick knows at age 27 he still has time. He's not going to sit around feeling sorry for himself. He'll race in Lucerne tomorrow, London next week, and Zurich the week after, writes IAN O'RIORDAN
He knows because he used to be among that crowd. A teenager, playing Gaelic football above in Marley Park, all the crap, all the abuse, came from the sidelines. He tries to ignore them. He just wishes they could stand in his shoes, just for one moment, to feel the open wounds like he does. And for that one moment he could be like them. The ones who try to criticise what they don't know to begin with. Perhaps then he'd understand how really fickle it all is.
He accepts what happened in Barcelona was a big disappointment. All week he's been waking up, on the hour, every hour, in a live re-run of his European Championships 400 metres final. What's happening here? He's supposed to finish in the medals. Did he collapse under the pressure? Only the pressure he put on himself. Did he try too hard? He did, didn't he? He tried too hard. He sees himself coming off the final bend. He sees Martyn Rooney, his training partner, well up on him, in lane one. He panics, just a little. He tries to force it. He tries to be aggressive. He panics a little more. He's tensing up. He's driving way too hard. He's no longer dancing to the rhythm. He falls across the finish line. 45.28 seconds. Fifth. 45.23 wins bronze. If only he'd stayed upright, that split second longer. That .05 of a second . . .
He knows some people reckon he ran his best race in the semi-final - 44.79 seconds, just off his Irish record. Why couldn't Gillick run like that in the final? Same reason why very few 400-metre runners ever do. Championship finals, inevitably, are slightly slower. Unless you're one of the top Americans. Same reason why Jonathan Borlee, who ran a Belgian record of 44.71 in the semi-final, only ran 45.35 in the final, to finish seventh.
He knows he couldn't have prepared any better for Barcelona. But he'll be honest about it too. Did he get a little too far ahead of himself? Did he visualise himself winning a medal a little too often? He wanted it badly, perhaps too badly, especially after letting another chance slip at the World Indoors in March. But he always said any one of the eight finalists was capable of medalling, and so it proved. They could re-run that final eight times over and there'd be eight different positions. In one of them, Gillick would win gold. Definitely.
He knew walking out of the old Olympic Stadium that night his mind and body had been crushed by it all. Then, for the first time, he was asked about the heats of the relay the following morning. He'd never agreed to run the heats. His sole focus in Barcelona was his 400-metres final, so whoever reckoned he would run the heats of the relay just 13 hours later had got ahead of themselves. If Ireland made the final, yes, but right then he felt like there'd been a death in the family. Only one of the other eight finalists ran for their country in the heats, and that was Kevin Borlee, who won the gold medal. That's understandable. If he'd won gold Gillick would have agreed to run the marathon the following morning.
He knows people only want to be on the side that's winning. Originally he was to fly home on the same flight as Derval O'Rourke. But without the shiny happy medal they wanted to see he flew alone into Stansted, spent one night at home in Loughborough, then escaped to his girlfriend's place in Sunderland. He didn't expect any sympathy calls and didn't want them either, although Derval actually called on Wednesday night. They spoke at length, about open wounds, about licking them, about what's next.
He knows at age 27 he still has time. He's not going to sit around feeling sorry for himself. He'll race in Lucerne tomorrow, London next week, and Zurich the week after. If he can salvage one thing from the season it will be an Irish record. The time of 44.77 seconds is well within his grasp. He doesn't expect any headlines when he does it.
He will sit down with his coach Nick Dakin at the end of the season, and they'll decide, together, what is the best way forward. He's not blind to the fact that some things might have to change, although he's definite about one thing: if he hadn't moved to England four years ago, his athletics career would be now over. Definitely. At the European Championships four years ago he ran 46.84 in his semi-final, the last to finish. Four years on, he ran over two seconds quicker. If that's not improvement, what is? Everything about living and training in Loughborough has made him a stronger athlete, a stronger person. Really, the thing that annoys him most is the idea that by training in England he has somehow taken the softer option. Quite the opposite. He moved to England because he didn't want to be the big fish in the small pond. Because to be the best, he had to train with the best, surround himself with the best facilities, neither of which was available in Ireland.
He has no fear of leaving England either if he feels that's what is necessary to make him better again. This is his career, his livelihood. He promised himself as a teenager in Ballinteer he'd be the best he could, the best 400-metre runner Ireland has ever produced. If some people like to forget that he's already done that, already taken Irish 400-metre running to where it's never been before, that's not his problem. He'll keep on keeping on, positively. Nothing has stopped him so far and nothing will stop him now.
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