Ahead of competing at the Rio Olympics, Jade Lally, who discovered discus at Hercules Wimbledon Athletics Club, reflects on her bumpy #RoadToRio. From narrowly missing out on squad selection for London 2012 to funding cuts, Jade tells The Resident how she has battled her way through adversity
Words: Andy Greeves
Given the ups and downs that Tooting-born, Mitcham-raised athlete Jade Lally has experienced in her career, her selection for Team GB for this summer’s Olympics in Rio can be seen as something of a triumph over adversity. Four years ago, the discus thrower was not chosen to compete at London 2012 despite achieving the qualifying standard and, since then, she has been blighted by a number of medical set-backs.
‘There were two qualifying standards for London 2012 and I achieved the B standard,’ explains Lally. ‘That meant the selectors had the choice whether to take me or not. They chose not to and I sat in the Olympic Stadium on the day of the event I could have taken part in with my dad. I watched the qualification and Team GB didn’t have any one in it.
‘I just thought that it was a poor decision from the selectors – to not pick someone that had achieved the qualifying standard to compete.’
Later that year Lally found out she had kidney stones. ‘I had them treated as a one-off, because at the end of the day, people get kidney stones. But I had a reoccurrence in 2014, which meant I had to have two separate operations on my right kidney in the space of a couple of years. Some investigations were undertaken as it is unusual for kidney stones to come back so soon and then it was discovered I had a benign tumour in my neck, which I had to have removed in May last year.’
During this challenging period, Lally also saw her funding cut meaning she would have to become ‘self-funded and friends and family funded’. The shining light in difficult times came at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 when she won a bronze medal in Glasgow.
‘The noise levels and the support is what stands out most from my bronze medal in Glasgow two years ago,’ she reflects. ‘That was my first experience of being backed by a home crowd having missed out on London 2012 and it was immense.
The noise levels and the support is what stands out most from my bronze medal in Glasgow two years ago
‘When I went into my final throw, I was already guaranteed a medal and there were no other events going on at the time. So it got really noisy with everyone focusing on me and cheering me on. You’ve got to embrace that support and not be intimidated by it and that’s what I did.’
Lally acknowledges the competition will be even stronger at Rio 2016 than it was at the Commonwealth Games. The positive south Londoner says her main goal in Brazil is ‘to make it through to the final and that’s where anything is possible’. An Olympic medal would be the pinnacle of the 29-year-old’s career that began when she discovered the discus at Hercules Wimbledon Athletics Club in Wimbledon Park.
‘I joined Hercules Wimbledon with my best friend when I was 14,’ says Lally. ‘We had been recommended through Merton Schools. That introduced me to all these new events and that was fantastic. I started off doing high jump because I was tall and my friend did discus. She enjoyed it so much that I asked my coach to show me how to throw it too. He got a group of us together and I ended up beating everyone, so I decided then that was the sport for me!
I joined Hercules Wimbledon with my best friend when I was 14. I started off doing high jump because I was tall and my friend did discus
‘I’m really keen to keep my links to London as strong as ever,’ she continues. ‘My dad and my grandparents live in Streatham, my mum is in Mitcham. I like going back to Wimbledon too. I worked as a ball girl at Wimbledon Championships in 2002, which was a lot of good fun, but hard work at the same time.
‘The shopping is pretty good in Wimbledon, with the Centre Court Shopping Centre and that kind of thing but I have to say I’m more of a window shopper!’ Luckily for Lally, there won’t be much time for shopping this summer – Rio is calling.
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