The day was Thursday 26th July 2012. The day of the final of the 400metre hurdles at the London Olympics. This was it. The most important day in Jack's life, the one he'd worked hard for over the past three years. Pushing continuously past his limits; overcoming niggles, injuries and operations, as well as anything else thrown into his path - all building up to this one day. This one day that could change his life forever. The clock hanging above the reception in the team hotel showed 12:00. The race wasn't scheduled until eight o'clock that evening. Jack decided to go to the stadium with some of the team to kill a couple of hours by watching some of the early afternoon action.
Jack had just had his last meal - tuna pasta bake - four hours before the race, in order to get some slow-releasing carbohydrates into his system during the build-up to the race. The nerves were slowly surfacing, the tension building. Jack rose from his seat, picking his racing kit up from under the table (vest, shorts, spikes, drinks, energy bars) and made his way outside, where his coach was waiting in earnest.
The time was now 6:30. The first call-up and the pre-race drug tests had just been completed. Jack began his pre-race warm-up, consisting of eating an energy bar, jogging for 5 minutes, stretching for 20 minutes and drills for 20 minutes. The time was now 7:15. Jack started to get his kit on, before the race officials came in to check the spike lengths and distribute lane numbers. This was Jack's moment now.
The crowd roared as the eight athletes made their way into the stadium. 50,000 seats, each one occupied. Flags of all nations were in the stadium, waving around. Union Jack's were in abundance. Scotland flags were also present, giving Jack a huge boost. He always wore a wristband with a Scotland flag on it - his good luck charm - but knowing all these people were supporting him gave him a feeling of euphoria. He set up his blocks in lane 4. In lanes 5 and 6 were the two fastest qualifiers, his main rivals. His coach had advised him to use these two athletes as pacemakers for the first half and then go for it. That was exactly what Jack was planning to do.
Standing behind the blocks, waiting for the starter's orders, the crowd was silent. You'd be able to hear a pin drop! After what seemed like an eternity, the starter said, "on your marks." All around him, the other finalists made their way forward. Jack took a deep breath nd walked in front of the starting blocks, crouched down and placed his feet in the blocks. Slowly, he settled. The starter muttered "set" as the gun was raised. All the athletes rose, holding themselves in position...
...BANG! The race was underway. The crowd cheering, supporting each and every athlete. Jack couldn't hear any of it, too focused on the race in hand. Over the first three hurdles, everyone was level. Coming up to 200metres, half of the athletes had fallen slightly behind. Jack made the conscious decision to make the break with 120metres to go, not knowing if it would pay off. 150metres left, fatigue started to set in. The three pre-race favourites, Jack and the two Americans, edged slightly in front of the third American athlete. Panic started going through Jack's mind; he had never set off this fast before. 120metres left. Jack made his move. Unfortunately, so did the other two. 100metres left. No separation between the three. Over the final hurdle, Jack summoned every ounce of energy reserve that remained to carry him towards the line. 10metres left...5metres left. Jack dipped forward, praying that he would snatch victory.
Jack lay trackside, completely drained. The trackside clock read 46.77, a new world record. But who would own it? Third place flashed up. The American, 46.80. Second place appeared, 46.79, going to the Olympic champion of 2008, the other American. Jack's name flashed up in first place, next to the new world record. Tears streamed down Jack's face. The noise from the crowd exploded like a bomb. The two American athletes helped Jack up, his legs like lead. All three medalists went round on a lap of honour, Jack draped in both the Union Jack and the Scottish flags.
John McOmish, Higher