ROGER BLACK: MY THREE PIECES OF ADVICE FOR UP-AND-COMING ATHLETES

Three-time Olympic medallist Roger Black had to learn to deal with high-pressure scenarios at a young age after he was catapulted onto the senior stage in a flash. His rise to prominence came after winning gold in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the Cottbus 1985 European Junior Championships. And Roger’s incredible talent was seen on an even larger scale as he claimed double gold at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
11 January, 2022

Three-time Olympic medallist Roger Black had to learn to deal with high-pressure scenarios at a young age after he was catapulted onto the senior stage in a flash. His rise to prominence came after winning gold in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the Cottbus 1985 European Junior Championships.

And Roger’s incredible talent was seen on an even larger scale as he claimed double gold at his first major championships at senior level - the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh - and followed this up just weeks later by topping the podium twice at the European Championships.

He was then faced by a challenging period with injuries and illness - causing major disruption early on in his career - before amassing a major haul of Olympic, world and European medals.

Roger, now 55, has shared three invaluable pieces of advice to help SportsAid athletes participating in the Team England Futures programme with Commonwealth Games England.

TAKE EACH EXPERIENCE AS A LESSON

"You feel you're part of something for your country at a Commonwealth Games, whereas when you go to a European or World Championships, it's just athletes.

"So that's a great experience, and part of what makes it a very special experience, is the whole Commonwealth Games village. It's not just about athletics….and that's something someone from every sport should look at and learn from.

"It's an opportunity for younger athletes, but it's also an opportunity for some older athletes who, with respect, maybe weren't expecting to get on the Olympic roster.

"The Commonwealth Games is a great opportunity, especially for young athletes like myself in '86, to experience a major Championship because they probably wouldn't get that opportunity.

"As an athlete, you need to compete at major Championships, and if you haven't experienced that, it's quite hard to then step to the next level, so for me, the Commonwealths were, without doubt, a really significant event.

"I think that's the significance of the Commonwealth Games in my sport of athletics. There's an opportunity for 12 people to race. The reason why it's so significant is because it's not just those athletes who are in the top three in the country that are going to go. On top of that, those athletes who are maybe ranked sixth, seventh, or eighth in the country may go too."

DON’T OVERTHINK YOUR PERFORMANCE

"I wasn't the favourite - I was down to very possibly medal at Edinburgh's Games in 1986. There was a guy from Australia called Darren Clark who'd come fourth in the '84 Olympics and was, on paper, the big favourite.

"On the day, it was really, really windy, and because I was so naïve, I just ran the way I usually ran, and he probably just overthought it.

"I won it by quite a long margin actually, but for me, it was the day that I realised that I could win medals, and a few weeks later, I went on to become the European Champion as well, so it was a massive event for me. It was huge.

"I can't really tell you how big it was, and just goes to show what can happen if you actually don't overthink your performance."

BE PREPARED TO ADAPT

"Athletes are very good at adapting, and you have to adapt as an athlete because there's no certainty - you're one injury away from missing a Championships, you're one injury away from your career ending. So, as an athlete, you really do have to adapt very quickly and take your opportunities while you have them.”

Commonwealth Games England has appointed SportsAid to lead on the development, management and operational delivery of Team England Futures at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The programme, supported by Sport England, will reinforce the importance of the Commonwealth Games, particularly one hosted on home soil, as a developmental opportunity within the talent and performance pathway!