I sit alone staring at the moonlight dancing with its own reflection as a warm light breeze massages it's way across the surface of the water. There is a real calm as I allow myself, probably for the first time, to steal a moment to reflect on the last few days, weeks, months and indeed years of the journey I have had with Dwain Chambers.
On Saturday, away from the scrutiny of the world media, Dwain and I finally met up in person over a plum juice in the privacy of a restaurant in a faceless hotel in Kingston, Jamaica. We had spoken many times in the week - hooray for Skype - but it was not the same, Dwain in a secluded sanctuary of anonymity, me deep in the frontline trenches fending off a barrage of text messages and emails relentlessly populating the screens of my computer and telephone. For different and the same reasons, neither of us had really registered the reality as we dared to contemplate a shared Olympic thought of what had for years been condemned as an impossible dream.
I recall meeting Dwain in late 2009, he was less than a shadow of the shadow of the person I saw today. A deeply unhappy soul, consumed by his own anxiety, frustration punctuating every syllable with real thoughts of retirement as the proverbial white towel was poised ominously overhead. I remember thinking to myself, "It can't be that bad, it was nearly a decade ago". How wrong I was... it was actually far worse. Most of the media scorned his very existence, he was an irritation to his own federation, a pariah to athletes past and present, there was a collective agreement to exclude him from meetings around the world, a marketing untouchable who had been reduced to scratching a living together from the unwanted morsels, discarded in someone else's direction that he managed to salvage. This really was mission impossible... and I chose to take it.
On the track, the last 30 months have been filled with the highs of winning the world indoor 60metres in Doha and breaking 10 seconds in Bergan. And the deepest lows, losing in the European Championship 100 metres in Barcelona and false starting in the semi final of the World Championships in Daegu last August. Dwain was inconsolable on both occasions. But curiously, it was actually his loss that has garnered sympathy amongst distinguished sports writers. Recently, a well-seasoned journalist reminisced how in Barcelona there was a collective sense of sadness amongst the writers in the mixed zone as they watched Dwain soldier off, spikes in hand, having faced their the cameras and dictaphones they thought for the last time. In Daegu, another one of their number said to me, "Well that's it then".
It's interesting how mindsets and perspectives differ. I don't know why, but I just knew deep down, probably more so in Daegu, that Dwain's devastation was just another painful but necessary step on this journey. My simple task on each occasion was to make Dwain realised it. Today, armed and protected with hindsight, Dwain smiled when he recalled my words last August (sitting on the high jump mat on the warm up track) in the wake of his World Championships bid in tatters, "There is always a silver lining somewhere Dwain, so long as you are prepared to look for it". On Dwain's unique journey there have been a number of times when we have had to look long and hard for that silver lining. It's discovery a shared precious and personal moment in time.
Off the track, it is now well known that Dwain has been undertaking charity work and doing presentations of his story in schools, colleges and universities. Before most meetings all over the world, Dwain has taken children's sprint academies delivered in a fun, happy, personable daddy-like manner. Those who know Dwain will instantly appreciate that they are the qualities that truly define him. I have seen first hand the way Dwain reaches out to people of all ages and background in an inspiring and positive way. Such a gift should, in my view, be embraced and not marginalised.
Like Atlas, Dwain had been banished to the edge of the athletics carrying his own and perhaps the athletic sins of others on his shoulders. On Saturday, for the first time, I saw a very different Dwain Chambers. A great burden lifted away and a look of determination as he can finally look forward rather than dwelling on his well documented past and most of all, a smile that was no longer a mask, but came from within. With perhaps a unique insight into the shortcomings of his athletics world, I genuinely believe we have not seen the best of Dwain Chambers. When placed on an even playing field, with the support of the public, I know he will finally realise his true potential.
Dwain has worked tirelessly on and off the track in pursuit of his Olympic dream to just have the opportunity to compete for a place to compete in front of the British public, his wife and three children in London in about three months time. There an be no doubt that the real hard work starts now. The difference is that Dwain now knows and believes that if you dare to contemplate the impossible, it might just happen. In Dwain's case it has already, but the much more interesting and unknown question now to contemplate is whether or when the ultimate impossible, or something close to it will.
When I first met Dwain he asked me "what's in it for you?", my answer "I have no idea". It was never anything that could be counted or measured...it was and is the last couple hours.Suggest a correction