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If you read nothing else today, read this article by Andrew Steele, British 400m runner.

These last few days, I have been writing about the wonderful achievements of athletes in Daegu. Well, that and the failures. But what never gets mentioned is the athletes that would have given everything to race, jump or hurdle alongside their contemporaries but can’t, for one reason or another. A lot of athletes have set-backs.

In 2008, Andy Turner’s lottery funding of £12,000 a year was cut off, based on the assumption that he would not win a medal in the 2009 World Championships at the 110m hurdles. At the time, he said “It’s going to be tough but I have to do it as I’ve still got dreams of winning a medal in the Olympics,” and that he would have to look for an outside sponsor or start a part-time job. The idea of not competing did not cross his mind, despite financial concerns. Competition, after all, drives all sportsmen. Turner had the drive to continue competing, despite the new hurdles he had to jump (pun intended).

Turner had to bounce back from what was probably a sporting all-time low and start achieving in order to get his funding back. Here are some of his achievements (and setbacks) from 2009, a year after he lost funding:

  • Fourth in 60m hurdles in European Indoor Championships
  • Won 110m hurdles in European Team Championships
  • Eliminated in heats at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, carrying an injury
  • Fifth in the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Final
And here are a list of achievements from 2010:
  • Won 110m hurdles in European Team Championships
  • Won 110m hurdles in 2010 European Athletics Championships
  • Won 110 hurdles in the Commonwealth games
And today, Turner was rewarded with the Bronze medal at the World Championships in Daegu, proving once and for all that he was more than deserving of Lottery funding.
Turner’s obstacles have been different in nature to that of Steele’s. Steele’s struggle with glandular fever means that he is not just struggling with his finances (he believes that, like Turner, he will lose his funding), but he is struggling everyday with his body. An athlete’s most important tool is, naturally, his body.

Steele’s article proved a timely reminder: The athletes at Daegu have worked incredibly hard to get where they are. But they are also incredibly lucky not to be plagued by injury and illness. It’s amazing to watch their performances, but it is very easy to forget the ones that have pushed themselves to the limit trying to achieve the same things.

I’m going to give Steele a thought when I’m back watching athletics on Thursday. I hope he gets well soon.
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