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UK Athletics

rhys jones on the comeback trail

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Rhys Jones
25 September 2015

At 21 years old, Rhys Jones (coach: Keith Antoine) has had enough injuries to last him an entire career. After a hamstring tear last winter delayed preparations for the new season, the Welshman saw his target of competing in Doha at the IPC World Championships as a far-off dream. However, fast forward a few months and Jones is back running sub 12 seconds in the T37 100m and the ambitious youngster has secured selection for the British team heading to Qatar.

Jones, who reached the final of the 100m and 200m at the Worlds in 2013, said: “It has been really tough – you think ‘why is this always happening to me?’ I’ve had major injuries, not just niggles. I’ve had troubles with my hamstring tears, hernia operations and bone stress.  The bone stress took a long time to get over, and I came back last winter and then tore my hamstring. I’ve had enough injuries to last anyone’s lifetime, not minding the fact that I’m only 21”, said Jones.

Although youthful in age, he is not new to the major championships setting. After making his senior championships debut at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Jones has travelled across the globe representing Great Britain & Northern Ireland and picked up a bronze medal in the 100m at the IPC European Championships in his home country of Wales last summer.

“It seems to be on the big stages I perform well – London (2012) I got two PBs and then I did the same in Lyon (IPC World Championships 2013). I was close to my PB in Glasgow (Commonwealth Games) and Swansea (IPC European Championships) last year. I’m stronger and fitter now so hopefully I can put everything together. Training in the gym has gone well so I need to replicate that success on the track in Doha.”

Despite the setbacks over the first half of the year, Jones appeared to be getting back into good shape at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in July, clocking at the time, a seasons best of 11.96 for fifth place; he has since improved this mark to 11.87. He lined up against some of the best athletes in the world, including South Africa’s Charl Du Toit and Fanie Van Der Merwe who will be challenging the Briton for the silverware on the world stage.

However, the Commonwealth bronze medallist is less interested in times at the moment and more focused on how he executes his races and subsequently, how he builds upon these performances.

“It’s more about running the race properly rather than chasing for times at the moment. We were separated by 3-4 tenths of a second (at the Anniversary Games) so that is what drives me. I want a medal (in Doha) and I believe I can get it down to the 11.6 by the end of the year.”

He is under no illusions about how tough the task at hand is and points towards the improvement in the T37 classification over the last few years which continue to push him to be the best he can be.

“It’s (the T37 class) developed greatly – there are people coming out of nowhere and running fast times. You are always looking behind you because people are always coming along and producing good displays. However, this really drives me on to keep being competitive. You always want to be at the top of the mountain and it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ I get to the top.”

During his struggles with injury, Jones has remained focused and credits his training group, which includes Paralympic T44 200m champion Richard Whitehead, who have helped him to return to form. He puts this down to a good team atmosphere which provides the perfect environment to fulfil his potential.

“We’ve got a good work ethic. When it comes to shorter stuff, I help Jordan (Howe) and when it comes to longer stuff, Rich (Whitehead) helps me out. As a group, we all push each other and help each other to achieve the times we want.”

Doha is the immediate aspiration but with the Paralympic Games in Rio next year and a home IPC World Championships in London in 2017, there is plenty for the Federation of Disability Sport Wales athlete to look forward to. He is especially looking forward to returning to the Olympic Stadium, an arena which holds plenty of memories for him.

“Being back in the Olympic Stadium in 2017 is going to be great. Hopefully the crowds will be the same as they were during the Paralympics in 2012. It is going to be the first time that both the IAAF  and IPC World Championships are going to be held at the same stadium in the same year, so that is something people should be excited about, it’s something I’m certainly looking forward to.

“Paralympic sport has been growing each year since 2012 – we had 20,000 supporting us at the Anniversary Games and that is something I would never have believed before 2012. London will hopefully put on a good show in 2017 and the crowds will come to support us and make a massive noise which will drive us to the medals.”