Olympic heartbreak for injured local sprinter
EXCLUSIVE: Not every athlete can realise their dream of competing at an Olympic Games, but for East London sprinter Rikki Fifton a series of injuries have robbed a local lad of a dream scenario.
The Newham and Essex Beagles runner has sprinted against and alongside some of the world’s best at 100m and 200m, narrowly missing out on relay action at Beijing 2008 despite making the initial squad.
And despite the decorated junior athlete's progress at senior level coming on nicely, a hamstring problem kicked off a chain of injuries and began a torrid few years which had Fifton contemplating life away from the track.
And after spending the last 12 months making up for lost time with an eye on the Olympic Stadium a stone’s throw away from his house, another hamstring tear combined with tendon issues led to an even bigger heartbreak.
“I had races in Greece and Paris, which went really well and I felt my recovery was coming along nicely,” a disheartened Fifton told Eurosport.
“Then I went to Italy and tore my hamstring in a 100m race which was set to put me out for a couple of weeks.
“It appeared to be a grade one hamstring tear which are usually pretty straightforward, but it turns out I also hurt my tendon which still hurts me to this day.
“I missed the trials because of that, so there was no way I would be able to get picked for the relay squad.”
He continued: “I’m obviously very disappointed, but it’s one of those things that happens to an athlete and there’s nothing you can really do about it.
“It’s just really bad timing because I can see the stadium from my house. It hurts a lot that I have to sit out an Olympic Games so close to home.”
The 27-year-old has joined an impressive list of East London athletes to go on to do great things, and feels the sky was the limit prior to being hampered by the string of setbacks.
“No disrespect to the other athletes, but I feel when I am in shape and at 100 per cent that I can fight for any spot,” he said.
“I ran a personal best in 2007 on the 100m, 10.16 seconds, and went into 2008 with really high hopes but it didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.
“I made the team for the Beijing Olympics in the relay but I didn’t get to run – everyone knows what happened there – but I kept my positive mindset heading into 2009.
“I was running really well but I tore my hamstring for the first time and it hasn’t really felt the same since.
“It wasn’t until this year that I really felt I had turned a corner but these things can’t be helped.”
Fifton’s faith has been tested before by serious injury, but after overcoming both physical and emotional agony the first time, he feels prepared to do so once again and continue to improve his resume even after the Games has left town.
“I have to stay positive and try again next season,” he added. “I hope to run a few races shortly after the Games, but who knows when exactly I can return. I just want to be racing again, to be honest.
“When you’re injured the one thing you miss the most is just being a part of the races. But to do all of this training and remain injured most of the time is not good.
“Up until 2009 I rarely suffered injuries so I wouldn’t consider myself injury-prone, I know how good I can potentially be but at the moment I am struggling to stay in one piece.
“There was still a lot left in the tank, even though it was hard to stay positive. Everything from my hamstring to my quads to both hips and my back were picking up problems, and I couldn’t go two weeks without breaking down.
“I started looking at other things to do with myself in 2010 when my injuries were at their worst, such as a personal training course, but I wanted to get back out there running badly.”
Though the Games have been somewhat of a jinx throughout his senior career after watching from the sidelines in China and being forced to play local spectator this summer, Fifton takes inspiration from Britain’s wealth of thirty-something talent and hopes to make it third time lucky at Rio 2016.
“I’ve trained with Marlon Devonish, Christian Malcolm and Dwain Chambers for the past few years and they’re all the other side of 30 and they are all still performing at an Olympic level,” he explained.
“So I still have hope that I’ll be able to perform at an Olympics, and in four years time when I’m 31 I hope to be in good nick for Rio.”