After the best year of his career in 2010 and the fastest start to a season ever at the beginning of 2011, Michael Rimmer looked to be showing immense form with just over a year to go to 2012. But a mystery groin injury produced an ongoing turbulent year which saw his World Championship hopes fall to pieces.
With the new year upon us, Michael finally looks set to be leaving all this behind him and we catch up with him in the beautiful surroundings of Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre to find out more...
So, Michael, what's been happening?
I've just had a double hernia operation at the beginning of January, so I've come to Bisham Abbey for 2 weeks to undergo rehab in order to get back to full fitness as soon as possible. I have already been here for a week and have another week to go. It was quite an aggressive bit of surgery so my rehab requires a specialised set of skills, so being here means it is all on my doorstep and I can rest with no distractions. I feel in a really good mindset after the first week and am positive that I am going to be back to normal really soon.
What sort of things have you been doing here?
I am doing a variety of things. I have a full plan for each week and some days are really packed with physio, strength and conditioning and seeing the doctor etc and then other days I have to get out and do a one hour walk in the morning, rest for the day and do another one late afternoon. I have also undergone a little light hypnosis which was an interesting experience. It's to try and get me into a positive mindset.
After a whole season of suffering with issues, why are you only just getting to the root of the problem?
That's a good question. I was never in a massive amount of pain all year, it was more of a discomfort and fatigue feeling so it was very difficult to pinpoint the problem. I went through the whole year without receiving a true and confident diagnosis, and underwent all kinds of treatment and physio to try and sort it. I saw a specialist in Manchester who was convinced it was a hernia and then had a second opinion from a specialist in Copenhagen a week later who said that it definitely wasn't. Then add lots of conflicting additional opinions from other people around me and, as you can imagine, I was pretty confused and reluctant to go under the knife without a concrete expert decision. Once they actually opened me up, it was quite obvious that I had a serious problem. It's been a little disappointing on UKA's part but I guess there is no point in dwelling on it and fingers crossed it has been dealt with and I can finally move forward.
It must have been quite a tough period, how did it make you feel?
To be honest, the whole of last season was a tough experience. After such a great 2010 and starting 2011 off so well in Doha, everything was going fantastic and people want to talk to you left right and centre. Two weeks later, I went to Rome and raced terribly and suddenly no-one wants to know you, so it definitely affected my confidence but I feel like I've become stronger for it.
The uncertainty of the problem has also been hard to deal with mentally but I've learned that I should listen to myself more and, in the end, it was me who made the decision to take the risk and have the surgery and I feel 100% certain that I have done the right thing.
Do you think the operation could impair your 2012 chances?
I'm hoping the injury has now been put to bed. The surgeon came to see me afterwards and the UKA doctor came over to Manchester from Loughborough to be present during the surgery and they explained that usually a 1cm tear in a groin area is considered to be a hernia and I had a 3 and half cm tear so it was really substantial. To close the tear they put a very fine sheet of mesh in there which is really, really tough and strengthens the area up and once I have completed my rehab and built the surrounding area, I should be back to normal so, all being well, it shouldn't have any negative impact on my progress at all. You could argue it's the equivalent of having the flu and missing 2 or 3 weeks training so it shouldn't be too bad.
Going back to Bisham Abbey, what's the place like where you're staying?
It's difficult to describe... it is literally in the middle of nowhere. It's where a lot of football teams get together for their training camps. The complex is phenomenal. There are pristine football pitches, tennis courts, hockey pitches and its right next to the River Thames so there's also rowing. It's just a real hub for elite sport and an inspiring place to be around especially when you are injured because it gives you that motivation to get back to full fitness.
Are you being looked after?
Yeah definitely. We're staying in the Abbey which is about 500 years old, so apparently there's lots of ghosts and it's quite scary at night, but it's a really relaxing place and I'm enjoying the surroundings a lot too. Weirdly, I have somehow ended up staying in the bridal suite and I'm sleeping in a four poster bed but I can't complain, it's pretty comfortable.
The food is also really good, well unless you are a 14 year old tennis player who I have constantly heard whinging about it all week. But us older athletes can definitely appreciate a good meal.
Do you worry that you have missed out on a whole season's progress?
Personally I don't. I showed what form I was in at the beginning of the year. I ran 1.45.1 which was the A standard for the Olympics in my first race of the season with no preparation, so I showed I was in that shape straight away and it was just unfortunate that I couldn't capitalise on that form and push on. The Worlds was obviously a massive opportunity missed but I know at my best form what I am capable of, I just need to keep faith in my training and abilities.
You probably get asked this a lot but how are you feeling about London now we have finally reached 2012?
Personally I am not thinking about it too much at all. I genuinely don't have a clue when my first round is. There's no point in thinking about it yet. I'm concentrating on getting fit and my first race of the season in Manchester which is just a low key race. It's 2012 which is great but for me, the Olympics still feels quite a long way away and because I'm getting over this operation I think it's good for me to feel like that for the time being.
Rudisha appears to be running away with gold at the moment, what do you think it will take to beat him?
In a major championship it's a little bit tougher because there are 3 rounds but because he has that edge he can afford to have an off day and still win so I think it's up to the guys behind him to get that little bit closer to be ready to take advantage. In my opinion you always need to be in 1.42 shape to try and beat him which is what I am aiming for.
I listened to Steve Cram talking about Mo Farah recently in relation to his focus and Mo's approach is to focus solely on getting in shape, not thinking about times or medals at this stage but thinking about the things that you can control and consistent training which I totally agree with. Short term goals are the key. I don't want to think too far ahead. What I am saying is, what can I do about Rudisha? If he's going to run 1.39 what can I do about that. You have just got to concentrate on yourself and if I am in the right shape then I know I'm in with a shot.
So will you be visiting or trying to train at the stadium before the Olympics come round?
Well hopefully. It's been a bit of a pain because we were supposed to be getting the opportunity in January but it was cancelled because the opening ceremony needed more preparation... read into that how you may! It's a bit of a joke but it now means we will have to wait till March. I will train on it as much as I can really. There are about 4 dates so I'm going to be there on every single date if I can and hopefully there will be a chance to race on the track at the British University Championships, so I am aiming to get an entry as a guest into that.
What do you think you can use from this experience to encourage and inspire young people at your Athletes 4 Schools visits?
There is quite a bit I have learned and will definitely share these experiences. My confidence has suffered massively and it's been really tough dealing with such uncertainty and setback but I feel stronger and more determined for it so hopefully young people will identify with this and be encouraged by how I have dealt with it.
...and finally, what's with the new Mo Farah style hairdo... are you trying to inject some ‘Mo' inspiration into your rehab?
I'd like to say this was on purpose but I'm afraid I just had a bad experience with my clippers and it all had to come off! But if Mo ever reads this then, yes, he is my style guru.
We wish Michael the best of luck with his recovery and look forward to him getting back into his Athletes 4 Schools role. To visit Michael's profile, click here