Reflections on Resilience – Keeley O’Hagan

From the outside, the journey to success in sport looks more glamorous and easier than reality. What spectators see is the wonderful places people go and the highs when you’re doing well. What they don’t see are the frequent injuries, mental and financial stress, hours of rehab, and the social sacrifices to name a few. I’ve had a lot of first-hand experience in setbacks through both health issues and injuries.

Four years ago I was in my peak, jumping multiples personal bests throughout the season and gaining my first senior national title. It was an exciting time and the future was looking bright, however, as we know things don’t always go to plan. The following 2 1/2 years consisted of health issues which were unable to be managed alongside sport, so I reluctantly had to take a step back and re-evaluate what my body could handle.

At the beginning of 2018, I started competing again and won my second senior national title. This reignited my love for the sport, and as I was healthy, I decided to commit to full-time training. Training throughout the winter was going very well, but this changed during a bonding session in August where I started to feel pain in my right foot. Over the following two weeks, it got progressively worse and I was sent for an MRI which showed high stress in my sesamoid bone. Immediately I was put in a moon boot and further investigations were ordered. I was in a moon boot twice over the coming months and in total, spent five months off any loading or running. I saw multiple specialists who concluded I had a split sesamoid bone and fluid inside the bones. The outcome was bleak and nothing could be done to fix it except for rest or surgery in the future.

Throughout this period I spent many hours in the pool and on a bike which was mentally challenging. There were times I wanted to give up, but I’m so glad I kept turning up to training. In January I was given the all clear to start a slow transition back to running. In my two competitions back I secured the World University Games qualifying standard and second place at nationals. Midseason I moved to Christchurch to train with a new coach and training group, which has been the best decision I have made for my athletics career.

In the build-up to the World University Games, I had my most successful training block ever. I gained a lot of strength, speed and confidence, which I had lost due to inconsistent training over the last few years. My foot injury is still present, however with appropriate loading and management, I am able to still train full time. I have already started my overseas trip to the World University Games and have had two successful competitions in Australia. The level of completion at the World University Games is very high this year, however, I am confident I can achieve the final and am capable of a personal best.

Throughout this process, I’ve realised that training smart, being resilient and determined are essential if you want to succeed in sport. We are all on our own journeys and some just have a few more blips in the way than others.

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