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Dave Henson Blog - 'I Just want to embrace this opportunity'

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It’s weird, the Paralympics have been building up for so long and been on the horizon for ages, so now they’re actually here it’s a little bit crazy.

The holding camp in Belo Horizonte was something of a British bubble – we didn’t really get a chance to mix with the other nations or anything, but as the days ticked over you could sense that the excitement was building in the camp. To see everyone out on the track putting the finishing touches to all their hard work was special.

To have guys out here representing other sports is great too - I’ve got friends in the archery and powerlifting teams so it’s been really nice to talk to them and see what their experiences have been like so far. I mean, I don’t know the first thing about powerlifting, but just seeing those guys and what they do up close is incredible, they’re immense.

Aside from the familiar faces, it’s been nice to speak to guys you’ve not met or seen before too - just to hear what others are looking forward to or when they’re competing has been great, and it really makes you feel part of one multi-sport team united as ParalympicsGB.

When it comes to competing, the nerves are the same as they have been for other competitions, but there’s definitely that over-rising feeling that ‘this is the big one’ – it’s the competition that people have been training for and focusing on so much, and ultimately it’s where the funding comes from too, so there is a bit more of a sense of importance and priority on the Games as a whole. Nervousness-wise, everyone is in the same boat and feels the same; it’s about trying to stay relaxed.

For me, personally, I’m here to enjoy it and basically show what I can do. Five and a half years ago I was in Afghanistan and had a bad day at work and things changed, so the Paralympics for me are a culmination of the journey: from going through the injury, to learning to walk, to learning to run again, so to be here is incredible.

There is no bigger stage for our sport, it really is the pinnacle and it proves that there is a life after injury or disaster - whatever you want to call it; it’s massive for so many people. I’m very aware of how far I’ve come, so I’m not putting any additional pressure on myself in terms of competition performance, because I know where I am and what I’m capable of.

Obviously I ramped my training up a little bit before I came out - it was always my intention to do so as I wanted to be in the best possible shape before I arrived in Belo, but now I’ll tone it down a little to get the necessary rest and recovery before I compete. Largely I kept my routines the same - there were some slightly longer sprints and things like that, but mainly just a lot of fine tuning.

Waiting to see the schedule was obviously quite interesting too - there’s four days of competition for me if I make it through to both finals, the 12th and 13th [September] are days off which will be great for recovery before the 100m heats. I don’t think I could be any luckier with how the days have panned out, I’ve got a few days in the village to get used to the surroundings before I race for the first time on the 10th, and I’ve got a couple of days after the 200m to get ready for the 100m, so it’s all good.

I finish competing on the 15th, so if all goes according to plan I’ll have two days off to take in some of the other sports. I’m so excited I’ll get to catch some of the athletics, we’ve got such a strong team for the T54 wheelchair relay so I’m really looking forward to that, and there’s the women’s T35-38 relay which looks all set to be great too - those are definitely the two events I’m really keen to have a gander at. It’s my first time in Brazil too, so obviously I’m planning to go and see Christ the Redeemer when I can, I’ll have to get some sort of dodgy selfie when I’m up there.

All in all I just want to embrace this opportunity - this may not come round for me again and, as I know, anything can happen, so it’s exactly the same as I treated the Europeans [Grosseto, Italy, earlier this year] or the Anniversary Games - I might not get selected for another major competition, or I might pick up an injury which prevents me from competing again, so this could well be the last time I do it and I have to respect that. That’s certainly not to say I’m planning on giving up, I just feel that it’s just important to step back and appreciate this opportunity, it’s a special and unique one, and I’m one of the lucky ones. As long as I enjoy the experience, I’ve done well.

I hope you enjoy the Paralympic Games; we’ll aim to do you proud.

Dave