Learning about nutrition, discipline and ambition are key to any athlete, whether performing at a professional level or not. For Olympic long jumper Abigail Irozuru, the considerations are paramount. The Shiplake cohort were fortunate enough to have Abigail come to the school, giving a talk on all of this and more. Staff, pupils and parents were welcomed to the Lecture Theatre on Thursday 10 March, to enjoy a discussion on the trials and tribulations of pursuing sport as a career.
To a packed Lecture Theatre, Abigail spoke of how her career had humble beginnings. Up until the age of 14, she hadn’t shown a particular interest in long-jumping, and it was only a chance encounter with a coach that put her on the road to what would later become her full-time career. She went on to tell the audience of the peaks and troughs of her career to date- including participation in the British Schools Championships, the European Athletics Championships, training camps in America, and the road to Rio. She spoke with a candid honesty about the pressure she experiences on a day to day basis, and the amount of preparation and perseverance necessary to succeed. Abigail was refreshingly open and down to earth, and immediately charmed and endeared the audience!
Abigail told the audience on the importance of focus: for her, this was a focus on running faster and running better. She also spoke of the need for good nutrition and sleep to recover; ensuring that she stretches for at least an hour a day, and maintains a high protein diet are key to Abigail’s success, helping increase alertness, accuracy and awareness.
Abigail left the audience with a motto: ‘amplify your life’. Breaking down the acronym, each letter stood for a golden rule. A: affirmations. For Abigail, believing the little putdowns you tell yourself daily is incredibly harmful, and so waking up each day with a positive outlook is beneficial before any physical training has taken place. M: meditations. Taking the time to rest and recover, even if this is watching the television or reading a book, is imperative to a strong performance. P: play. Abigail stressed the importance of having fun with your sport! The pressure on an athlete to constantly perform is exhausting, and so having fun and enjoying participating in the sport is paramount. L: let go. The temptation to attempt to control everything is frustrating in the long run; Abigail spoke of relaxing into the sport, and learning that she can only control her own thoughts and her own actions. I: inspire. Allowing yourself to encourage others, as well as being inspired by their triumphs and successes. F: faithful friends. Having friends and family to turn to was a key part of Abigail’s success. And, finally y: you. Understanding why you’re doing this, and what it is that drives you to keep returning to the sport, despite injury or setbacks, will help the desire to achieve. She was endearing and honest, upfront about failures and injuries that had felt like insurmountable hurdles. The talk covered key points for the pupils, and they found it highly beneficial.
Director of Sport Mr James Gaunt said that the talk was ‘a fantastic opportunity for our sports award holders and PE pupils to learn of the intricacies involved in preparing oneself for competition at the very peak of the sporting spectrum. Abigail gave a fascinating insight into the high performance programme to which she adheres. The pupils should have absorbed invaluable information regarding nutrition, psychology, training and rest. We will all watch out for Abigail at Rio 2016 and wish her all the very best in pursuit of some serious air time!!’