Yay I’m writing again – This Blog comes with a massive thank you attached to Dr Nick Mantell – seriously awesome
From a young age I have been super competitive in every aspect of life – from card games to hide and seek and to no end anything physical. From the age of 7 had recorded personal best times on my BMX bike to ride from school to home (about 3km) also how fast I could run to the top of our road and back (barefoot on gravel)
I fondly remember hiding in the hay-barn for a whole day as a 4 year old while the whole community was desperately looking for me fearing I had drowned in a local creek (had I have known this I would have come out earlier) – I just thought I was winning a great game of hide and seek.
But there was one competition/test that I was always desperate to win from a young age
“The eye sight test”
From my primary school days I knew I couldn’t read from around the 4th-5th line down on the wall eye chart and being super competitive I assumed you had to beat this “Test” therefore there was no option for me at this age to not PASS the eye sight test. In my opinion I considered glasses were for nerds and kids that got teased at school.
Whilst my sisters had glasses I felt proud that I had no need for glasses (for which I really did have need).
Prior to having eye sight tests I used to sneak into the staff room and memorize the remaining lines that when I had to then read those lines for the test off memory I could quickly recite the letters and pass.
To my demise it has taken me years to realize the implications.
Moving forward in my younger years saw me excel in sport represent Counties “My local representative team” in under 14 Cricket in the Northern Districts Cricket Tournament.
Whilst I was ok on the cricket front I held the position of wicket keeper. Little known to my coaches I struggled to see the ball delivered until it was halfway down the cricket pitch, with constant strain on the eyes over the weekends my cricket suffered – facing fast bowlers was semi petrifying as a batsman, and quick reaction times saved me as a wicket keeper – unbeknown to all I just gritted my teeth and dealt with the situation and continued to defy my need for glasses.
Throughout my secondary School years I continued this idea of withstanding the need to see clearly – I had never used glasses so I didn’t know what I was missing.
Sitting in class I would struggle to read the white board thus most of my learning came about from being a good listener and then playing catch up on all the information that I couldn’t get off the board. Interesting enough I now find myself as a teacher delivering courses in a manner that I would learn from (Listening, Actioning and writing down the outcomes)
I often found myself exceptionally sleepy by mid day with the strain in trying to follow the board during school periods in the morning.
My love of Cricket (playing) disappeared at School as I fell below the top team and out of the representative system and by chance I stumbled into starting my weightlifting career by way of witnessing a school demonstration at assembly.
Whist continuing at School the ultimate goal was to represent the School on the rugby field in the 1st XV.
Being small in stature I slowly had to relocate my playing position from a mid fielder/wing through to half back – a position which required vision.
I remember running around a rugby field only having a small field of vision (simply following the ball) my ability to assess a situation at breakdown was limited as I saw a blur of bodies and often I flicked a pass out just to keep the game moving.
1: Passing was not my strongest point – if any of my old team mates are reading this they are probably nodding their heads right now.
2: I tried to tackle the biggest guys on the field simply to try and rectify my weakness as a halfback by trying to become an additional flanker. Which was the trend at the time for halfbacks.
Thus most of the time I was completely stuffed: This is probably a future blog on my Lactic threshold.
Eventually the dream of becoming an All Black faded after witnessnesing Nigel Avery at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the Olympic dream became realistic – see blog:
Moving on to my tertiary studies I continued to defy my need for clear vision.
Completing studies in sport management and coaching I often turned up to lectures and placed my hat lowered over my head and pretended I was writing notes from the board – generally because I couldn’t read the lecture notes from the screen and I was also exceptionally tired from my morning training session.
I remember my management lecturer calling me out in the middle of class for sleeping to which I recited the last topic he was talking about and replied “whist I look like I am sleeping, I am listening exceptionally well”
Picture painted? I needed glasses – but I refused glasses
Fast forward a few years ……….
I competed on the World Stage numerous times – 2005 World Champs, 2006 Commonwealth Games, 2008 Olympics, 2009 World Championships, 2010 Commonwealth Games.
One of the biggest things I preach about Olympic lifting is the need for balance
I often say “Keep the eyes” – “Find your focal point” – “Find Balance”
If the head is balanced the body will follow – one of the main things with balance is a stable focal point.
Standing on the Olympic Platform looking out to the crowd all I could see was the blurry red light from the main camera. Nothing solid to focus on.
For years when I was training my lifts were balanced, they were consistent and tight (the wall was close and often I set up a large point to focus on) – yet I stood on the comp platform and I was chasing lifts, off balance and nothing consistent at all due to the change in distance to a focal.
A massive sense of anxiety leading to the comp platform knowing that this was about to happen again and again.
Come London 2012 Olympics – I arrived from my training camp in Finland to the Olympic Village early, very few people in the NZ team had arrived and the village was at a slow pace.
Upon taking myself on a tour I had a look through the medical center and came across the vision testing.
The great thing about the Olympics is this is all free – note: This is an amazing thing as many counties and many athletes from around the world in countries that struggle to provide health care get to access this during the games period.
Very few people were around and I began talking with an optometrist about this – they convinced me to get my eyes tested. This was my first actual eye test (ie. What is clearer, with or without these lenses, Green or red is brighter? etc)
Upon completion I was issued with my first pair of glasses to be picked up later in the week.
The world in High definition.
I remember going to my first event at the Olympics – To watch the women’s 53kg category, usually I look towards the platform but end up watching on the big screen and also unable to read the attempt board. The difference in experience of watching the lifter and being able to watch the competition progress through the competition attempt board was simply put “Life Changing”
If you look through my photos you’ll see a distinctive change in my appearance –
From starting a business and coaching numerous athletes (2 notable females – one being my wife) I lost my hair so I was given orders from the wife to shave my head – I only agreed to shave the head if I was allowed to grow a beard “The rest is history” and the second is the +glasses which seemed to coincide with the beard + glasses trend. Note: I’m not trying to be trendy it’s just how it all played out.
PART 2: VISION – REAL VISION!! Ilasik