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Layla Anna-Lee Headshot

An Athlete's Life Is a Tough One

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The Paralympians have arrived with a tremendous appetite for gold, at the time of writing we stand in second place on the medal table with a staggering 54 medals, 16 of which are gold. Only China are ahead of us.

The discipline and drive of our athletes cannot be compared, and in these Paralympic Games it's the mindset that our athletes have that has interested me the most. Not only the passion of our winners but more so the frustration of the ones who lost out.

We all put pressure on ourselves and feel the pain of failure, but with the weight of a whole nation on your shoulders, how do you manage letting Great Britain down.

Now we all know that we, as an audience, don't hold a grudge. We are not, as a nation 'let down' but when you are the athlete with the cameras pinned on your every muscle and the nation on the edge of their seats that is exactly how it feels. I have spoken to many an Olympian who speaks of the hurt and sadness of 'letting their country down', such an interesting phrase that carries so much pain and pressure.

I'm intrigued by the athletes we so quickly forget. The ones who spent the last four years sacrificing with one goal in mind... and missed. The athletes decorated with sponsorship deals pegged on their chances of success, that quickly disappear the second the result is announced. The men and women who crashed, injured and failed not only a nation but themselves.

Last week in the velodrome we saw TeamGB cyclist Jody Cundy, who lost his leg when he was three, breakdown in front of the cameras after being disqualified for a bad start straight out of the gate. He thought his wheel was trapped by the gate when it spun out, he immediately raised his hand so the commissaire could see and restart the race - he was denied a restart and Cundy was disqualified. The judges ruled that the gate was fine and the error belonged solely on Cundy's shoulders.

Four years ended in just five yards - understandably he blew.

"They have ruined my life" he shouted amongst a torrent of profanities that could be heard on all corners of the globe that were tuned in. "You can't do this, I've worked all my life for this".

His coach had to drag him from view in an attempt to calm him down and he was still kicking off as he was ushered away.

That's it. His chance gone. No second go, no chance of making it right again an he's out for another four years. That's if he can face doing it all again - for many athletes this was their only chance. Age is a factor, sponsorship another, there's no guarantee that you'll be in the team next time around.

Not only are there the obvious pressures but an athlete's life is a tough one. It's very expensive to be a professional in sport and your sponsors are everything. We don't pay our athletes a huge amount, their livelihoods are firmly tied to the advertisement deals and endorsements they agree to.

Financially life can change drastically with a loss. The shirt on your back can be literally removed and you're having to rethink your career back from square one.

This intense pressure on your mental health must be damaging. TeamGB have a wonderful team of physiologists that work with our athletes, but spare a thought for the ones who didn't win because regardless of the medals all of our Olympic and Paralympic TeamGB men and women are awesome. I hope they can relax in the knowledge they haven't let us down and we are so proud of our nations athletes.

I hope they don't give up.

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