The Para Vaulter: Defending the championship title

With the vaulting championships on the horizon, Lizzie's been working super hard to refine her routine, but with a last-minute illness threatening her chances, will she manage to perform, let alone defend her title? 

I wonder how many people have uttered the famous last words of, ‘I just need to get past this weekend/this event/tomorrow night and then I’ll be fine’?!

I suspect the answer would be almost all of us, and for probably almost all of us it doesn’t necessarily work out that way!

For the last couple of months the cracks have definitely been showing and now it’s finally half term I have a chance to pause and take stock.

The British Vaulting Championships 

The big event I needed to get through, around or over was the British Vaulting Championships that were held near Glasgow earlier in October.

It was my last big championships of the year and, although I genuinely enjoy competing, I must admit it feels good to be able to ease off a bit now.

Sandie (my horse!), Nett (my lunger!) and Me

Sandie (my horse!), Nett (my lunger!) and Me

In the week or so before going away I managed to cartwheel off the beam and into a wall, smacking my foot on a windowsill in the process and acquiring a ‘bone bruise’.

I also woke up one morning with my arm out of place and no feeling in it (once relocated I wished there were still no feeling in it!).

I spent a couple of weeks limping around with my walker boot and my sling, in which time I was accurately described by the despairing children at school as ‘REALLY clumsy’ and, ‘like, injury central 101’.

I was also feeling pretty grotty in general and had had to take some sessions easy, and even missed some training to stay at home wrapped in blankets instead.

This is incredibly unlike me as my usual approach to training is that if I’m not in hospital, I should be there, and that if I’m there, I go all in.

On the morning of departure, I woke up early and was halfway through washing when I suddenly realised that the nausea I’d been feeling for two weeks was now more than nausea.

My mum came in as I had my head down the loo, took one look, and declared with an air of practised understatement, ‘Well, this doesn’t look good.’

Obviously, I wasn’t going to worry about the small matter of renegade stomach contents when there was a plane to catch to a vaulting competition.

In fairness, I also felt much better after being sick and felt I could genuinely argue that maybe it was just anxiety about the flight making me feel bad (I can stand on a horse but I can’t stand enclosed spaces!).

The pattern continued throughout the weekend away, with me switching between ‘fine’ and ‘oh criminy, not now.’

I tried hard to feel well at all the right times and on the first day this did actually work.

Although I was definitely shaking more than usual from sheer fatigue, I didn’t feel sick for either my compulsories or my freestyle.

They weren’t my best renditions as the tremors and jerky moves I do were bad but, fortunately, nobody admitted to noticing the hairy moment in the leg changes where I nearly bounced off the side!  

Performing a Y-stand (Pic: Equiscot) 

Performing a Y-stand (Pic: Equiscot) 

Day two

The second day was a different matter. It was an earlier start and, although I’d slept well, my body wasn’t keen on the whole waking up idea.

A picture with super Sandie 

A picture with super Sandie 

I forced down as much dry toast as I could stomach – or, rather, the bare minimum required for taking pills – and then made sure I’d have anti-emetics on me at all times even if it did mean vaulting with pills in my socks and up my sleeves!

My warm-up was even more restrained than usual as even quite gentle movements felt like bungee jumping.

With 15 minutes to go, I was feeling worse. I knew I couldn’t do much about it apart from taking more medication and praying – so that’s what I did!

I ran through my routine once and my lunger, Nett, asked me if I was going to do it again. Even just shaking my head brought a new wave of nausea. It was so annoying!

I was genuinely looking forward to performing the routine and I felt completely confident in my ability to pull it off. I was excited about it, definitely not nervous. Why was I sick now?!

Fortunately the ‘woe is me’ commentary in my head came to an abrupt finish as I realised – at first disbelievingly, but then wondrously – that I felt OK!

I didn’t feel sick anymore, and I would be fine just in time to go in and do my routine! The Hallelujah Chorus sounded in my ears…

Anyway, I enjoyed the routine. I had fun. I felt fine. My horse, Sandie, was brilliant and things mostly went as well as they could have done (I’m sure I’ll always have some wobbles!).

I managed to defend the title the way I wanted to: actually doing my thing as well as I could, without being held back by irritating illness or injury.

Champions! (Pic: Equiscot) 

Champions! (Pic: Equiscot) 

After the event 

I can only conclude that the lingering sickness I have two weeks later is just what we permanently poorly folk refer to as ‘Muggle illness’.

Muggle illnesses feel unfair on top of disability but they’re inevitable, of course. The one advantage we have is that, since we never know for sure if it’s a Muggle illness or a wizard illness, we only know one option: to power through and get on with the show.

By the time you read this, we’ll all have returned from the annual two-week break, and we’ll be working towards next year’s competitions.

I have so much I want to achieve in the next year. I’m sure I’ll be hurting more, hitting the deck (even) more and being even tougher on myself, but hopefully I’ll have some fun along the way too!