Olympic runner Genevieve LaCaze on resilience against injuries
Athletics fans are used to seeing Olympic runner Genevieve Gregson (nee LaCaze) shine on the international stage as a world-class runner, but what many people don't know about are the hurdles she's had to overcome to get where she is today.
Speaking to Pickstar's Off-Field Podcast, Genevieve shares her experiences with injuries and the resilience she's built from overcoming each one.
When her ankle first broke in 2013, it seemed as if her whole world came crumbling down. It was Genevieve's first European race as a professional athlete. She was competing in the Diamond League, a prestigious tour just below the World Championships and Olympics.
“I got in to my first race and I thought, 'Wow, this is a huge opportunity'," she told podcast hosts, James Begley and Andrew Montesi.
"I was racing the steeplechase and at two laps to go, I fell in the water pit and just completely sheared the bone in my ankle…I never had fallen before, I'd never even experienced an injury.
“I didn't know what it was like to rehab, and I remember after I broke my ankle, after the race, they were like, 'you need to get a scan and everything and check out what's going here'... I had World Champs in six weeks and I thought, 'no big deal, it must be a sprain, my ankle's fat as hell but I'll just sort it out'… I find out a week later that, yeah, the bone's broken in two places and there's absolutely no chance I'll be running anytime soon."
For Gen, this moment was heartbreaking, especially as it meant she was unable to compete in the IAAF World Championships in Russia. But it gave her a reality check about the challenges athletes can be forced to face at the peak of their careers.
“I just remember thinking that that was the hardest thing in the world to deal with, where everything was just always on an incline, and if I worked hard, I got what I wanted, and if I did all the right things and I ate the right food and I slept the right amount of hours, I would keep progressing in my career. And at that moment I realised, not everyone is that lucky. This was a freak accident, it wasn't a chronic injury, it was an acute break. But my world was tipped upside down.
I all of a sudden went from knowing exactly what I wanted in life to, 'oh my gosh, it can be taken away that easy. Now what?'
Genevieve openly discussed her stages of grieving, which at first felt almost like someone had died. But she says giving her injury time to heal and establishing both recovery and preventative plans were key to being mentally resilient at the time.
“With every injury I've had, there's the initial heartbreak period, where you're like, 'Oh my God, why me?' But you can sit down with the doctors, work out what it is that's happened, how you get over this, and mainly how you can prevent this from ever happening again.
“I'm such a creature of habit and ritual and routine, and as soon as I work out what I need to do, I go into autopilot. I'll plan in the notes section of my phone the next three months of exactly what I'm going to do day to day…I go into beast mode, but it's the only way, and I think so many athletes are the same. You wire yourself this way because the hardest part to what we do is when the uncontrollable happens and we're so used to being able to control everything in our surroundings."
But at the end of the day, Genevieve can say she is grateful for these experiences, which have strengthened her character and build resilience towards anything life throws at her.
I think that injury definitely gave me a whole other insight on what this sport actually is and how hard it can and how heartbreaking it can be.
“I've had a million injuries since then. I actually haven't stopped getting injured since then, but I think I'm so much more resilient and I'm tougher in my mind and I’m kind of... not expecting to get hurt, but if I am, it's not like the world is caving in and I'm going to cry myself to sleep for the next month.
“I can deal with things. I feel like I can deal with any challenge after that happening to me at a young age when I probably wasn't ready for it.”
Pickstar produces Off-Field, the podcast that focuses on the world of sport outside of the arena with the people who make it happen.
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