After 1 year, I have run, swum, jumped, shot, sailed, fallen, rolled, ducked, lunged through 27 sports and 119 events to (almost) complete my goal of competing in every event on the Rio Olympic Games schedule.
What begun as a fanciful dream slowly crept to reality. At times it was testing not just for the events but to get to the sports and convince clubs and teams and sporting bodies to support me. The logistics of completion was a little trickier than the actual events themselves. But they sure gave me a run for my money.
Things began in early August ’15 slowly but surely with a handful of team and individual sports, mostly those accessible and that I knew I would do very poorly in. Tennis, table tennis, fencing, handball and hockey. Out of those, the handball was the most surprising. The speed of play, the force of contact and power of throw was well above what I expected. The players were closer to basketball type than the small, wiry athletes I assumed would be playing.
Highlights through the next few months were the marathon in September, cycling road race in October, swimming and athletics multi-event days in November/December and the marathon swim near Christmas. I found that no matter my assumed level of fitness, when it comes to the long distance, you have to take it seriously. I am glad to have completed most of the long events with little to no training. But it hurt. At times too much. I chose the wrong road race for cycling in Fitz’s Challenge. This is a 230km ride in Canberra that includes 5km of vertical climb. It is a longer ride and greater climb than any stage of the Tour de France. Not being a climber and with little training, I bombed out delirious, sick and in new kinds of pain.
Across 2016, I managed to keep busy with a selection of events each weekend and was lucky enough when I could compete during the week. In a case of poor planning, I left quite a few water based events to winter. The upside was that there weren’t that many others out there to wrangle with. The downside was losing feeling in your extremities most mornings. It really came down to a search for completion rather than competition, as the disciplines went further and further from my sporting skill set.
In gymnastics preparation, I tore the muscle under my arm on the rings and was out of any competition for almost two months. Things were moving along nicely before then. It became a bit of a rush after, still not being 100% better from the injury. In the end, I missed out on equestrian events mostly due to the time lost then, as I have had no previous experience on a horse and was advised that what I wanted to achieve could not be attempted with a fair amount of preparation. In the end, I rode a carousel instead.
Modern Pentathlon was one of the final events to be completed, mostly due to me being in NSW and there being few events to attempt. I was very pleasantly surprised with the camaraderie and good will of all the other competitors and the organisers. It was a fly in fly out situation due to the Saturday of competition being bookended by other competition back in Sydney. A big thank you to Cathy for all her work and fierce competition on the day as well as Kim in the organisation pre and post event. You were all so welcoming and supportive + the venues were great, showcasing a slice of Brisbane I had previously never seen. This might be my only exposure to Modern Pentathlon but I hold it very dearly as one of the truly great experiences of the AndyOlympics!
I am very lucky to have been able to do this challenge. In raising money for the Australian Paralympic Committee, I found a good cause that gave extra meaning to my competitions. I have not reached anywhere near what I set out to achieve in raising money, but every bit counts and I am sure what has been raised will go to the most worthy of our community of athletes.
With the AndyOlympics, at times I sought the challenge and at others, the challenge came to me. I have a newfound love and great respect for so many sports. I have found gymnastics at the ideal age of 34 and with possibly a little pistol shooting, some running, a touch of swimming and odd sailing, I have found a new mix of sports to keep me busy until the next challenge…..
– Andy Hannan