During the world championships in Beijing I was constantly having treatment on my Achilles. Everytime I stepped off the track I went to see the physio to keep on top of it. I was getting deep and painful massages to open it out and keep the blood pumping through it, which seemed to help.
Ahead of the final event I had terrible back pain and as I ran towards the finish line in the 800m I tore my left calf – the opposite leg to my Achilles injury – just like Kat. If it had been any earlier in the race I would not have won the gold medal. But I could see the finish line and I just held on. It was only when I crossed the line and stopped that the pain really hit me. Afterwards, on that victory lap around the Beijing stadium, I could hardly walk.
A calf tear is relatively straightforward to heal. It’s the Achilles that is really troublesome. I’ll never forget the long road of rehab. Unlike other injuries that need rest, with the Achilles it was all about loading – hanging my heel off the edge of a step and going up and down, adding weights as it grew stronger, and backing off when I had setbacks.
All the way to the Rio Olympics I struggled with it, feeling good in training and then I would get a niggly pain again. I would notice it first thing in the morning, getting out of bed. I remember having to sleep with strapping around my foot and ankle to hold it in a flexed position. Heptathlon events, with all that speed and power, just seemed to irritate it.
A slight tear would pop up and mean I had to stop training again for a few days, or even a few weeks. It was hard. I was often in tears with the frustration. As an athlete you just want to make progress, not feel as though you are always at risk of going backwards. Kat, having had a ruptured Achilles rather than the tears I had, will have already been through so much just to get to the starting line in Tokyo.
It will be brutal for Kat to return from this, but she has done it before. Picked herself up and come back from disappointment. There are three big years coming up in our sport – Commonwealth Games, European Championships and a World Championships, before an Olympic Games in Paris 2024. She got herself right in such a short amount of time ahead of Tokyo, she has all the tools ready at her disposal to get there. Now she’s got to draw on that knowledge and use it to pull her out of this and, ultimately, come back stronger. I wish that she didn’t have to go on this journey, but I know that she can do it.