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aspirations high for for Whitehead in 2015

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Richard Whitehead

With all of the major titles to his name, Richard Whitehead went into the IPC European Championships in Swansea with one thing on his mind – to regain the gold medal he won in Stadskanaal, Holland in 2012.

However, the 38 year old double leg amputee was pipped to the T42 200m title by Russia’s Anton Prokhorov who clocked a personal best of 26.48, two seconds shy of Whitehead’s world record of 24.38.

Battling swirling winds and rain, Whitehead said afterwards: “Conditions weren't favourable for myself, how I'm having to run; my hips are knackered now because of the pressure I had to go through on the bend. But credit obviously to Prokhorov, he pushed on and I just didn't have it.

“I can guarantee one thing, I won’t be second in Doha and I won’t be second in Rio – I just have to move forward. I am obviously disappointed, as Paralympic champion you want to be winning the races.”

Eight months on, the multiple gold medallist readily admits that the heartache of Swansea has made him more determined ahead of another big season, which includes the IPC World Championships in Doha in six months’ time.

“I think that it’s important that with disappointment you learn from those negative experiences. For me, coming second wasn’t on the radar for Swansea. It was about going there with what I had and coming back with a gold medal.

“Unfortunately, due to the conditions and other aspects it didn’t work out and I think I’m a better athlete for it. It also raised questions around my running that I hadn’t thought about which gave me more work to plan on. I’ve now put more thought into my starts and how I run the first 100m and there will be a vast improvement in Doha. With a strong network and team environment, I’m sure we can write the wrongs.”

It’s been a busy few years for the Nottingham-based athlete with two new arrivals in the family combined with a busy schedule which has included running 40 marathons in 40 days (raising over £450,000 for Scope and Sarcoma UK) and a runner’s up position on ITV’s diving show ‘Splash.’

While he has been going at 100 miles an hour since his London 2012 triumph, Whitehead’s real focus is on becoming a three-time world champion in the Middle East, which he admits will be no easy feat.

USA duo Regas Woods and Shaquille Lance and Australia’s Paralympic 100m gold and 200m silver medallist Scott Reardon have all pushed on since the showpiece in the British capital three years ago and Whitehead is well aware of the challenge that faces him over the next few years.

“I think the depth is stronger due to the effect of London 2012. It was the biggest Paralympic Games up to now and that wasn’t just the stadium, but also to the international audience as well. A lot more people were aware of the classifications and opportunities so more people are running and throwing and jumping within the athletics arena. It’s great for me because it encourages me to train harder because I know that some of the athletes, even though they’re half my age are pushing me all the time. However, I feel like I’ve still got room to improve.

 "2011 was my first World Championships and 2013 was my second world gold and obviously I’m looking to make that a hat-trick. It’s going to be hard, and it gets harder every year as an athlete but also because the competition is getting so fierce. There are some great athletes coming over from America, Australia and Europe and it’s about me controlling the controllables and hopefully I’ve done enough on the day.”

Whitehead, who is also the world record holder over the marathon at 2:42.54, sees the London 2017 IPC World Championships as the perfect way to end what has been a stellar career, but acknowledges that there are a lot of obstacles to overcome before what he hopes to be a fairytale ending.

“You’ve got Doha, Rio and then London 2017 so it’s tough to look that far ahead. I wouldn’t want to commit myself to any results, it’s about taking one competition at a time and hopefully you feel physically and mentally motivated to continue.

“Ideally I want to finish in London with success, whatever that looks like for me at that time. With London being the capital and it giving me so many memories in London 2012 it’ll give family and friends the opportunity to watch me for the last time. It will be quite emotional to finish on the track in that environment. It’s important to have a start and a finish point, and London 2017 will probably be my last athletics event.”

Whitehead, will be in his 40th year by the time London once again welcomes the world’s best para-athletes and concedes that having a home championships was the main reason for prolonging his career by another 12 months.

“I think if the World Championships weren’t in London, I’d probably finish in Rio. It’s a big deal and I’d want to give my all like I always have done. I think sometimes results mask the performance in some cases.

“Just because you haven’t won the gold medal doesn’t mean you didn’t give it 110% and I try to do that in all my races. Sometimes you’re successful sometimes you’re not. It’s not all about the gold silver and bronze but about people watching you, giving your all for a great cause. I’d like to go to London and show everybody who has supported me and give something back to the legacy of 2012.”

You can follow Whitehead on Twitter here

Whitehead co-owns a Paralympic sports management company offering advice to sporting talent such as Maria Lyle, Rhys Jones, Sophie Hahn and swimmers Charlotte Henshaw and Ollie Hynd MBE www.paralympian.co.uk/