This year should have been the time Aled Davies secured his status as one of the world’s greatest Paralympians. Champion of the world in 2012 and 2016, he was on for the hat-trick of golden triumphs in Tokyo. He’s disappointed, but there are compensations as Graham Thomas reports.
Aled Davies insists fatherhood and the joy of seeing his daughter learn to walk will always shine far brighter than any gold medal.
The multiple medalist and world champion should be spending this summer preparing for more glory at the Paralympics in Tokyo.
He admits the postponement of that event was a crushing blow, but has found that anyone who requires a mood-lifter in these tough times should simply look around them and find reasons to smile.
Practicing gratitude has always been recognized as a valuable tool towards good mental health – and never more so than now.
It may sometimes feel difficult to be grateful when life is not going to plan, but research has shown that the counting of blessings can improve emotional well-being and lessen anxiety.
Psychologists at Sheffield University recently constructed a “wall of gratitude” as a method of improving people’s mental health * and shot putter and discuss king Davies believes focusing on what he has – rather than what’s been lost – is proving invaluable.
“It was inevitable that Tokyo was going to get postponed,” he says. “We were all just waiting for it. I would have been going for my third gold medal this summer, but that’s just going to have to wait for another year.
“For me, I was only a month away from competing. I was gutted when it was announced, but I am seeing it as a blessing in disguise.
💪 World’s strongest man
— British Athletics (@BritAthletics) April 11, 2020
“I was supposed to be away for four months, but I would have missed an important time with my fiancé and daughter.
“Seeing her grow up puts things into perspective. No medal is going to replace seeing her running around and growing up.
“That is where I have put all my energy – into my family. The athletics is going to have to wait another year. I am not going to lose 15 years of hard work overnight.”
So, Davies is playing happy families at home with his wife and baby daughter, who was born last year just before her dad won his fourth consecutive shot put World Championship gold medal in Dubai.
The champ is in training and has built his own throwing cage in his back garden – slung between two apple trees and with a platform made out of horse stable matting.
If the ingenuity is still firing, Aled admits he had to tone down his competitive instinct again to keep his mood level on a pretty even keel.
“It’s about being smart,” he says. “I’m not chasing world records in my back garden.
“I’m just trying to tick over and hopefully not get too much rust on the joints.
“I struggled at first because I was going on social media and everyone seemed to be doing a live workout. Everyone seemed to be smashing it and I thought, ‘am I even training hard enough, anymore?’
“But I think people got a bit excited at first. But then reality kicked in. For a lot of us, this is our job and we want to be coming out of this with a loaded gun so that we’re ready to go again.
“I hope people are doing things in moderation. It’s important to have activity to break up the day and I don’t think I’ve ever see so many people out walking.”
Davies won gold in the T42 discus at the London Paralympics in 2012 and repeated his triumph in the F42 shot put in Rio four years later.
Tokyo would have been the chance to record an historic hat-trick at the age of just 28. But the year-long postponement, he says, will be put to good use – in both his family and professional life.
“I’m lucky I’m able to do some sort of throwing in my garden, specifically the technical stuff.
“It’s strange because this is the time when you come out of winter training and you want to throw – to see how far you can launch it.
Y merched prydferth x pic.twitter.com/bvz1apOr9V
— Aled Sion Davies (@AledDavies2012) February 14, 2020
“At the moment, it feels like I’ve grafted all winter – then had a week off – and now I’m going into a type of another winter block. But, hopefully, I’ll get to do some competitions before the end of the summer.
“I am enjoying family time. I put everything into throwing, but it drains me. Athletics is a selfish sport and you have do what’s best for you. It is very draining.
“So, I think we are lucky in having an opportunity to switch off, not over-think things, and enjoy what we have around us. That’s the most important thing.
“The Paralympics is a competition that only comes around every four years and often you don’t get a second opportunity.
“Now, there will no stone unturned. I can do all those little one per cent advantages this winter although I know my rivals are going to be training harder than ever, also.
“I am just glad that people are thinking of the bigger picture. It’s a pandemic and people’s health is the most important thing.”