The European Youth Championships gave Sabrina her sixth GB vest in just over 12 months but every selection is like the first, both for her and us, and it’s always a huge honour. To be named as one of the GB captains was an even bigger honour and you can imagine how proud we were of her. Sabrina only turned 17 in April but we feel people sometimes forget this as her name has been around for what seems a while now.
As a parent, the joys of selection start with lots of paperwork and online forms. The first box of GB kit is a bit like Christmas morning, but then this has to last for a 2-year cycle so my next job is to name everything. Children have a habit of ‘misplacing’ clothing – it’s never their fault, of course! – and Sabrina is no exception.
On the day the athletes all meet up prior to departure, the parents are included in all the team talks, which we always find invaluable. Then comes the big goodbye after the team photo is taken (proud daddy, Joydeep, with Sabrina just before the ‘goodbye’ below).
From this point on, your child is under the care of British Athletics and their fantastic management team.
Parents are not allowed to fly out with the team or stay in the same accommodation during the championships, which we fully agree with. Sabrina was only 15 when she was first selected and, although daunting to be separated from us, she just adapted. Sabrina and our eldest, Natasha, always manage to adapt and we have had complete faith in the British Athletics team managers.
We have been fortunate to be able to have traveled out to all of Sabrina’s competitions, including Cali, Colombia last year [IAAF World Youth Championships] and last week’s European Youth Champs in Georgia. On each occasion, we have been able to meet up with Sabrina in the lobby of her hotel to pass on any last-minute items or food she might have forgotten, but this is only when convenient with the team management. We don’t just ‘turn up’ as the team is often off-site training or having team meetings.
To be honest, she likes the goodies we bring and a quick hug but then she wants to get back to the team, so our presence isn’t really wanted. I’m sure the hug is more for me! As we aren’t actually needed, it means we can go sightseeing and then watch the rest of the championships and support the team.
Understandably, up until competition day, they are ‘professional athletes’ and can’t just leave the hotel. It isn’t a holiday, after all. Pre-race, they are either training, eating, sleeping or just wiling away the hours. Wifi is a must (what would they do without social media?!) and DVDs. We get the chance to Facetime or text occasionally but generally speaking, she’s always ‘too busy’ – typical teenage talk meaning: not now mum!
The only other time we got to see Sabrina in person in Tbilisi was on race day itself, but as this was practically the last race on the last day, we were very limited. Even post-race she was whisked away for the medal ceremony and then drug testing. So, apart from a congratulatory hug, I didn’t get to see or speak to her again until her return to Gatwick on Tuesday.
For these championships, the other parents all traveled separately and stayed in different hotels. At the track, we are all supportive of each other but do tend to stay in family groups. This isn’t a bad thing as the Union Jacks are then spread around the stadium!
Sabrina’s race in Tbilisi was practically the last race of the whole championships. Unfortunately, this worked against her on this occasion. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she had had the timetabled heats but it was switched to a straight final at short notice, so she wasn’t able to get more running into her legs.
Once the competition started, Sabrina couldn’t do any training other than run around the surrounding area to the athletes’ village. This meant she had to change her mental and physical preparations and then just sit and wait for race day. On the face of it, this shouldn’t have been a problem, but there was a bout of food poisoning going around and as soon as I heard that, I had a gut feeling it was going to be touch and go keeping Sabrina, who is rather a fussy eater anyway, in peak health until the very last day.
The GB team were fantastic and did their best but my fears were confirmed and Sabrina did succumb to the virus, which ultimately did not do her any favours during her race, no doubt zapping her energy over her trademark finish over the last 50m.
I was incredibly nervous watching her race. I just had that feeling everything wasn’t going to go to plan and was disappointed for her with the result, which is crazy as she did win silver. In hindsight, she did the best she could in the circumstances and I am very proud of how she has dealt with it.
Sabrina has been brilliant and positive about not winning gold. She knows she was more than capable of doing it and she didn’t want to let British Athletics or her team down. We are always going on about ‘control the controllables’ and ‘the journey’ and she is fully aware that under the circumstances, she is pleased to have won her first international medal (even if it isn’t the colour she would have liked).
We, as parents, are incredibly proud of her for her maturity. She has always said that she learns more from her loses than her wins, so here’s hoping this is another lesson that goes towards her development as an athlete and on her journey to hopefully representing GB one day as a senior.