Photograph courtesy of Michael Sibbons
Ruddock in extraordinary bid to make Team GB
26 June 2012
Loughborough University’s Sam Ruddock will make an extraordinary bid to make the Team GB team for the Paralympics next month, just seven months after taking up sprinting.
And the 22-year-old, who until last December was playing American football for the university’s Loughborough Aces team, is hopeful of achieving the times he needs in the 100m and 200m after switching from middle distance spikes to sprinting spikes.
Sam needs to run 13.2 secs for the 100 and 28.5 secs for the 200, and his personal bests are 13.7 and 28.7 respectively.
He will attempt to realise his dream on July 8 at the McCain Birmingham Games. “That’s my next major race, it’s the last chance for everyone to make their selection bids,” said Sam, who suffers from cerebral palsy and is a T35 athlete.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” he smiled. “My 200 is looking more likely at the moment.
“The thing about my best times is that they were run in middle distance spikes, which don’t give me the same sort of knee lift and power as sprinting spikes, which make a huge difference to the way I run.
“They will give me an extra half a second. My coach and I are pretty optimistic that we can make those times.
“It’s the only thing we can do, improve. The team wants to see pbs, and if I can show them that on July 8 I will give them the best excuse to take me, alongside another chap called Jordan Howe, who has run 13 flat.
“I met him two weeks ago and he is an absolutely incredible chap. He’s 16 and running world class times.
“The team is really excited because they have found me and Jordan, which gives us 12 years of potential medals for the next three or four Paralympics.
“When I spoke to Peter Eriksson, the head coach of the UK Athletics Paralympic Programme, he said: ‘Hi, we have heard quite a lot about you,’
“And I said, ‘Really, I have only been doing this for two months and you know my name!’ Being addressed like that by the head coach was a pretty big deal’
“He said, ‘If you get selected this year it will be incredible’. He said we now have two athletes who can make both finals this year and win medals in 2016 and 2020. To hear that from someone who knows what he is doing is just … ridiculous!”
Sam, who has just completed a three year degree in International Relations and is hoping to get a scholarship to do a Masters, admits the last seven months since he dropped American football for sprinting have been a ‘whirlwind.’
And it’s all down to Charnwood Athletic Club coach Joe McDonnell, a Loughborough graduate, who spotted him training at the Paula Radcliffe Stadium last December.
He was so impressed with what he saw that he asked Sam if he had considered sprinting. “I said, ‘No, I think I run slow. I was never really that good at running’.
“He asked whether I wanted to run as a disability athlete, and then it clicked. I thought to myself, ‘hang on a minute, I have a coach here telling me I can sprint, and that I’m quick, and the Paralympics are in seventh months time.’
“He said, ‘What are you doing for the next three months?’ and I said, ‘Well, the season finishes and I have got nothing to do.
“Being at Loughborough, I don’t turn down the opportunity to do more sport because that is how I wind down from my degree.
“Football was going to end so I needed something to keep me going, I don’t know where this will take me but I’m not one to say no.
“So I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it’. We started training in March, I ran my first race in April, the Charnwood Open at the Paula Radcliffe Stadium. I had a really good time and since then it has been an absolute whirlwind.
“The head coordinators of the Paralympics performance sent me to the IPC Croatian Open, they classified me and I won my first medals in a major competition against two Russians ranked in the top 10.
“I beat both in the 100m and came second in the 200m. That gave me my world ranking of eighth.”
Sam says that while his celebral palsy is not as severe as some experience he often gets cramp in his feet, he walks with a limp and his knees in, and lacks balance and co-ordination.
But he says that is improving due to his training and his technique is getting better all the time. “The learning curve is so steep,” he said.
“My first race was 14.2 for the 100 and now I’m at 13.7. By July it’s going to be in the low 13s. I believe that’s what I’m capable of. That jump in the space of three months is … shocking.
“If me and Jordan both get picked we will put our class on the map, with other people like Jonnie Peacock and Oscar Pistorius, who compete in classes which really do get the recognition.”
Sam says he would be very ‘lucky and fortunate’ to make the team after just a few months as a sprinter but it’s clear he is going to do everything he can to be there.
What would it mean to him? “It’s hard to put into words, it really is,” he said.
“It would be an honour and a privilege to put on the colours, incredible.”