Athlete, Great Britain Representative & Motivator
" Sport teaches/forces you to become more comfortable with your body because you learn to shift perspective from bitterness to not having a ‘perfect’, ‘ideal’ body to being thankful that your body allows you to participate in sport and activity at all. "
We love Abi! She is fierce, a champion and her story is inspiring. . We asked Abi a few questions so you can get to know her and see just how amazing she is!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and being a GB Athlete!
I actually officially retired from athletics in 2016, but that wasn’t the end of the story....
Retirement - When my Olympic dream was shattered for a second time in 2016 following an Achilles tendon rupture, retirement seemed like the sensible option. I felt broken in every way - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. And retirement proved to be an excellent fix. But why was I so broken?
Well, in 2012 I jumped the Olympic A standard, was ranked number two in the country and yet didn’t get to represent my country at a HOME Olympic Games.
Between 2012 and 2016, I ended up with three surgeries, countless injuries and a lot of heartbreak. So the 2016 incident was the final straw in a long list of career blows. But my retirement was short-lived.
The Comeback - Since coming back to the long jump pit in 2018, I’ve been blessed so much more. I feel like Job in the Bible. I’ve suffered quite a bit (not quite on his level!), but now my fortunes are being restored!
In the past 12 months:
I’ve represented Great Britain three times.
I finished number one British long jumper indoors 2019.
I made a European Indoor Champs final.
I’ve represented England.
I’m smiling more.
I’m travelling practically every week (this is now exhausting haha but I’m nonetheless thankful)
A little more about me... Chatty. Love to laugh, but also quite serious and focused. A lot of self-discipline in the right areas (apparently that’s a prerequisite to being a top athlete).
2. What is your greatest accomplishment as an athlete?
My resilience. I keep coming back stronger. I keep fighting. Even when I’m knocked down by injuries, non-selection, surgeries or a momentary lapse of self-belief, I pick myself up again with the help of my amazing friends and team. I credit that to my faith in God because I believe I’ve been blessed with this talent and it’s important for me to nurture and develop this until completion. I don’t know when I’ll end my athletics career for the final time, but I do know that between now and then I will keep pushing myself and working hard to be the best possible athlete.
In tangible terms though, perhaps my 7th place finish this year (2019) at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow. Why? This was my first time representing Great Britain at a major champs since 2012. This time, I rose to the occasion despite the fact my body was not 100%. But importantly, I was able to get on the runway because of the incredible team of physios and docs around me who gave it their all to secure my place in the final.
3. What helps you to stay focused and motivated?
Practically, I mix business with pleasure! So when I’m travelling for athletics, I’ll sit out in the sun for a bit, go to the beach or stay an extra day after the competition to explore the city.
I take regular standing or walking breaks during a long working day at the office or I’ll have a day or two in the week where I wake up naturally without an annoying alarm. And I won’t feel guilty if I’m still in bed past 10am!
Finally, I make sure I diarise rest days and chill time whether that’s alone or with friends.
However, on a deeper level, which is particularly important when life isn’t going so well... The knowledge that I’m living out my dreams on a daily basis. That I’m working on the gifts God has blessed me with - whether that’s in athletics or in business. I’m motivated by the fact that I’ve been through so many challenges and I’ve survived. So, what’s one more rep in the gym or one more sprint on the track?
4. How do you use your career to inspire and influence other girls wanting to do sport?
Collective Movements - First thoughts are This Girl Can and similar movements. I feel as though it’s a collective effort on the part of all female (and male) sportspeople.
Honesty and transparency. Whether in conversation one-to-one or a large school assembly, being my authentic self is critical. I don’t try to hide away from difficult questions, such as those relating to how to perform well under pressure, when dealing with anxiety or feeling good about your body.
Sharing the reality of what we know statistically drives girls away from sport - e.g. being too muscular and therefore not girly enough, getting sweaty and looking a mess.
I’ve had to come to terms with my own challenges with how I look. And it’s still an ongoing struggle, as I know it is for many people in general, whether in sport or not! I went through a period of time where I wouldn’t wear strapless shirts, dresses or vest tops. In my mind, my arms were too muscular for that and it drew too much attention. I basically felt like a man in a dress. So, I really resonate with girls who have a fear of looking or feeling this way. But at the same time, it is often an unfounded fear for most girls getting into sport. Your body becomes more toned; but it doesn’t necessarily become super muscular. And either way, sport teaches/forces you to become more comfortable with your body because you learn to shift perspective from bitterness to not having a ‘perfect’, ‘ideal’ body to being thankful that your body allows you to participate in sport and activity at all.
In addition, whenever I share my story in schools, colleges and universities, I’m quick to highlight the fact I didn’t start athletics until I was 15 years old. Up to that point I’d engaged in at least ten different sports and activities, including fencing, gymnastics and netball. Girls might try one sport and it isn’t the right fit for them. But the problem with that is they therefore view this attempt at sport as the defining reality of their interaction with sport. A lot of girls and young people in general are limited by a lack of access to various sports, a lack of education and awareness of the different sports or a fear of failure so they won’t even try new sport at all. So that’s why I go into schools and run workshops to encourage sports participation and enjoyment.
5. Best NYE party and why?
First one that comes to mind is a night out in Phoenix, 2014/15 NYE. I was with my closest friends, the music was great and it wasn’t too crowded! I danced all night and didn’t want to leave when it ended. But when we did eventually leave, we came out to snow falling. It was snowing... in the dessert! That was a surreal, magical experience.
MORE STORIES COMING SOON!