3 Oct 2010

Commonwealth Games: training camp trauma

Blogging for Channel 4 News, Isle of Man gymnast Alex Hedges watches as two teammates succumb to injuries in the run-up to the Delhi games.

On the day of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, Isle of Man gymnast Alex Hedges describes how two teammates succumb to injury

Day 3
I am now feeling a bit more at home in the village but am still adjusting to the kit in the gym. But today was not a good day for our gymnastics team however.

We had routines for the first time since arriving, which is always a tough session, but we knew it would be worse at this stage of getting settled. Things went surprisingly well at first. We started with rings and had no problems. On vault we all managed fine. My parallel bars were a bit scrappy but fine, and my high bar routine had one minor error.

My teammate Joe skipped high bar because the skin on his hands was in danger of tearing and had extra floor warm-up. He was just starting his floor routine with a big first tumble with multiple summersaults and went out of control in the air, landing on his side.

My teammate Joe was just starting his floor routine with a big first tumble with multiple summersaults, when he went out of control.

It was enough to make you wince for him but didn’t look too bad until I arrived next to him and he was writhing in pain, clutching his leg. I had to hold him down still.

Apparently as he took off he felt something go in his Achilles. He was stretchered off to hospital quickly but it was clear straight away he was not going to compete. We had to finish our routines, returning to the floor once he had been taken out. The floor felt a bit empty with one less man.

The bus felt very empty on the way home, and Joe is still in hospital having scans. All the other competitors were very supportive of him and the team.

The only positive we can take is that we still have three all-around gymnasts who can compete as a team, but we will not be able to score as well without Joe, who is our biggest strength on floor and vault. Our training will go on as planned and we hope to pick ourselves up tomorrow.

We are all gutted for Joe.

Commonwealth Games: the athlete's story
To read Alex Hedges's accounts of his first two days in Delhi ahead of the Commonwealth Games, click here
Isle of Man gymnast Alex Hedges

Day 4
Joe has a snapped Achilles tendon and is in a cast. He will probably need surgery but it hasn’t been decided whether he will be flown home before the end of the Commonwealth Games.

Apparently it looked like it had been fraying with no symptoms for some time and could have gone any time. Sucks that it happened now, but the forces in his tumbles are huge. We are focussed again on doing our job but there was something missing in training without him.

It was a positive day for me, Adam and Mukunda (the other members of the Manx gymnastic team), but Olivia had a slip on bars and tried to protect a minor ankle injury as she landed and her knee was sore. She was walking but has been taken to hospital for a precautionary scan so should be fine, it was a minor landing.

The mats here are very unforgiving. Everyone is wearing some form of ankle strapping because they hurt so much – even people you wouldn’t expect it from.

Day 5
Olivia has torn her Achilles and some other critical ligaments in her knee. She is now also out and in a cast. We are all a bit shocked and confused from something that seemed so minor. I am gutted for her and Joe.

We see a lot of injuries in our sport but it is horrible to be so close to their disappointment. It makes me a little paranoid about my own body but I am confident I am in good shape and trying to forget it.

We trained light again in the morning preparing for routines. Our routines session was much more positive. Joe was at training supporting us. After training today several of my joints were wrapped in ice for the bus journey home to keep them in good shape for tomorrow.

It is horrible to see the disappointment of the injured athletes. It makes me a little paranoid about my own body.

Tomorrow we have podium training, which is in the arena with all the cameras and judges present. We planned only to do half routines but as our routines went so well today, and because our bodies feel OK we are probably going to do another mock competition, which is the standard action in podium.

We had a flag-raising ceremony before second training. We had to leave early but we sang the national anthem of the Isle of Man and watched some local schoolchildren perform for us.

Sitting in the heat only for a short time gave us all headaches in training. You have to be disciplined in not doing anything to negatively affect training, even if this means missing something you would love to do and can never do again.

We have had a lot of press questions to answer about Joe and Olivia’s injuries the last couple of days, especially me as team captain. We are still managing to keep it to the back of our minds, though, and train well, which is great.

We are waiting to hear how long Joe and Olivia can stay before needing surgery or whether they can have it here. We hope they can stay to the end but it doesn’t look likely. Hopefully they can see us compete and can come down to podium training in the arena. We are also deciding if we can go to the opening ceremony.