Having given her heart and soul since her teens to striving to be an Olympian, the desperation she felt at not qualifying through the British Athletics Trials to represent her country in Tokyo was too much to bear.
She finished fifth in the 800 meters, having succumbed to nerves. She had not done justice to herself or her career and, at 27, she was left thinking ‘what else do I have left to give?’
“Dramatic as it may sound, I thought it was all over,” says the Leeds athlete. The Yorkshire Post. “When you have prepared for that moment and you think you have let everyone down. It was terrible.
“I know there is more to sport than being an Olympian, but I needed to seriously ask myself if I would be okay with going through the sport without ever having been to an Olympiad.
“It was really difficult for me to reconcile, to accept that you don’t have to be an Olympian to be a good athlete.”
Bell had been a fine athlete, at all junior and senior ranks, representing her local club Pudsey and Bramley on the national stage with distinction.
She had also done it on her own, never considered herself good enough to be funded by the Lottery through UK Sport, had worked as a special agent in the police force and in retail for Nike.
She finished fifth in the final of the Commonwealth Games three years earlier, but on June 27 this year, fifth place in the Olympic trials did not feel enough.
“I had put a lot into that race and I can’t tell you how nervous I was,” she reflects.
“He was in shape, he had lost before going to the tests, I knew what he was capable of, I put a lot of pressure on myself because I wanted him so much that I pushed him the other way. At that moment I wanted to quit. “
A conversation with her coach a few days later brought her back to reality.
“He said that the season is not over, that we have still recovered, we are still in shape, what can we do to finish the season on top? He was planning to do 1,500m for the rest of the season, to make up what he could. “
Then came the phone call from British Athletics that changed everything. Laura Muir, who finished ahead of Bell in testing, had decided to focus solely on the 1,500 meters in Tokyo. Bell was next in line in the 800m.
“I just fell apart, I couldn’t believe it,” says Bell, who was the 376th and last British athlete selected for the Games. “At first I thought it was a call for assistance from an athlete, that they were calling to check if he needed help.
“I laughed, I cried. It was an incredible whirlwind to be so low and then shoot so high. “
The whirlwind was just beginning. Bell had seven days to prepare for Tokyo. He even managed to cut his personal best time in an 800-meter race in Manchester two days before flying to Japan, confirming his internal belief that regardless of testing, he was in the shape of his life.
Bell landed in Tokyo stripped of his nerves and now imbued with the feeling of having nothing to lose.
“It was a dream come true and I was going to enjoy everything I did, every step I took,” says Bell.
He ended up taking many steps, working his way through the playoffs on Friday morning in Tokyo and the semi-final on Saturday night, until the final three days afterward.
“All of a sudden, I wasn’t even nervous,” says Bell, who qualified in each round as the fastest loser. “I was when I was on the starting line, don’t get me wrong, but that’s healthy.
“With the brief preparation for the Olympics I had, I was not nervous at all, because all the pressure was gone. I wanted to make the most of every opportunity I had, and I think I did, I think I grabbed it with both hands.
“I walked in with nothing to lose. I run well when I’m relaxed and happy and I was in an environment where I could run. It was in the shape of my life. “
The semi-final was the performance of which she is most proud. Heading into the championships ranked 14th in the world, the semi-finals …
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This notice was published: 2021-08-28 05:45:40