Category Archives: Caroline Heaney

Injured at the Olympics

By Caroline Heaney

Imagine you have spent the last four years of your life preparing for one special moment, only to have it snatched away from your grasp at the last moment. That scenario can be a reality for the Olympic athlete who sustains an injury before or during the Olympic Games.

Yesterday it was announced that bobsleigh athlete Craig Pickering was returning home from the Winter Olympics without even having stepped on the Sochi bobsleigh track. His exit was the result of a back injury. Pickering stated that he was devestated not to be able to compete in his first Winter Olympics.

Pickering is not alone. Research examining the psychological impact of sports injury shows that the occurence of a sports injury can lead to several negative reactions such as anger, frustration, anxiety and depression.

Some models of psychological reaction to injury even suggest that a sports injury can constitute a form of loss, and for the athlete whose Olympic dream has been crushed by injury this is certainly evident.

A tale of two injuries…

Sport psychology plays an important role in helping the athlete to cope with sports injury. Psychological strategies such as imagery, self talk, goal setting, relaxation and social support have all been shown to aid sports injury rehabilitation. A mentally strong athlete will cope better with injury and grow from the experience.

Pickering’s team mate, bobsleigh driver John Jackson, has certainly shown an ability to grow from the experience of sports injury. Back in July he suffered a serious Achilles’ tendon rupture – an injury that could almost certainly have put an end to his Sochi Olympic dream. Yet thanks to a positive attitude and some pioneering surgery he will be competing in Sochi, and following a some recent good performances at the European championships and World Cup he is a genuine medal prospect. It is claimed that Jackson has returned sronger than ever before. Jackson recently tweeted “To all injured athletes. Never give up faith, never give up on your dream and fight to come back better than you were. Believe in yourself” – inspirational words for any injured athlete.


Pathways into Winter Olympic Sport

By Caroline Heaney

Olympic Rings from the Sochi Olympic Village (Copyright Gary Anderson)

The British terrain isn’t exactly designed for participation in Winter Olympic sports yet Team GB will be taking a 56-strong squad to the Winter Olympics which open in Sochi next week, so how do British athletes come to be involved in these sports?

Paths into winter sports vary and often quite different to the more conventional routes seen in summer Olympic sports. Whilst most athletes have a background of junior participation, often having made their entry into the sport at a young age, in some Winter Olympic sports this is not the case. It is very common for athletes in these sports to start late having begun their sporting career in other sports. Athletics to bobsleigh has, for example, become a very common route into the sport.

Paths into winter sport can be influenced by factors such as:

  • Opportunity – e.g. do you live near a Winter sports facility?
  • Finance – e.g. can you afford skiing lessons?
  • Role models – e.g. are there role models that make you want to try a Winter Olympic sport?

I explore this more in the article Why would British Athletes Chose Winter Sports? in The Conversation.