After an uncountable number of metres swum, thousands of hours spent in the gym and one epic 12-hour flight, the Paralympics GB swim team (including me) stepped into the Rio 2016 Athletes’ Village.
What a weird and wonderful place an Athletes’ Village is! It’s unlike any other place in the entire world with 10,000 competitors from different cultures and backgrounds gathering in one place for two weeks of fierce competition.
The excitement intertwined with pre-competition nerves creates an electric atmosphere. I think it would be so easy to get caught up in the moment, but I knew the most important thing for me as an athlete was to focus on the job at hand. The Village, let alone Rio, is a huge place with so much to see and explore but it was essential that I kept swimming towards the front of my mind. It’s what I had been training for and the reason I was even in Rio in the first place.
We spent around a week in the Village before the competitions began. Those days were all about rest, with every athlete trying to get their bodies to feel as quick and supple as possible; but time moved quickly and before we knew it D-Day was upon us…
I competed in five events:
All of these were incredibly special moments for me but the one that stands out the most is my 50m Backstroke - it’s always been a personal favourite of mine and the atmosphere in the Rio aquatic centre that day made the event that little bit more special. I guess you guys want all the behind-the-scenes workings so here goes…
Before any major swimming race all the athletes have to report to what is known as the ‘Call Room’ around 20 minutes before. Here we’re sorted into one of eight chairs depending on our lane number. Everyone has their own individual routine in the call room; I personally like to sit with my headphones on and focus on the different elements of my race, going through everything one last time in my head.
When race time hits, all the athletes cue up behind the entrance to the competition pool and wait for our names to be announced before walking into the arena. Hearing my name and walking out to poolside in Rio will be a memory that will stay with me forever. I wear noise-cancelling headphones (a present from MacMic – thanks again!) and even they couldn’t overcome the roaring sound of the crowds. The stadium was at capacity and what a noise they were all making! I honestly think the floor began to shake. Chants of “Daniel, Daniel, Daniel” echoed as the home crowd cheered for the Games’ poster boy, Daniel Dias, who was right next to me.
The rest of the race is a blur if I’m honest, but all the good ones are. I’m always so focused on just getting to one side of that pool to the other in the quickest possible time that I tend to not actually remember the race itself.
Once I got out of my daze, I immediately glanced up at the scoreboard and realised I had finished second - I was a Paralympic silver medallist.
A flood of emotions hit me all at once like a tonne of bricks – pride, happiness and relief to name a few. I then saw my family and friends, who had travelled to Rio to support me, jumping for joy in the stands. I climbed up the through the press area and put my medal around my mum’s neck. I could see how much it meant to her and how proud she was - that was the icing on the cake for me.
As the Games came to a close, I was fortunate enough to finish with one silver and two bronze medals.
I competed in the races to win medals, but so many people supported me on my journey and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at MacMic for all of their support throughout the year.
It’s my last blog for now so I’m signing off for a while.
Andrew-Euan Mullen, three-time Paralympic medallist (I will never get used to that!)