IT WAS a case of so near yet so far for teenage Hucknall athlete Robert Needham in his latest appearance on a major stage.
Weeks after landing a gold medal at the Aviva English Schools Championships, Needham took part at the prestigious European Youth Olympic Festival at Trabzon in Turkey, representing his country for the first time,
But sadly, the 17-year-old (pictured), of Stainsborough Road, was hampered by injury after being struck down with an Achilles problem that left him struggling to make the 800m start.
Bravely, he battled on and the Hucknall National Comprehensive School student finished third in his heat, crossing the line in a time of one minute, 54.49 seconds.
However his time, which was well below his personal-best of 1.51.50, wasn’t quite good enough for a final spot. Needham missed out by just four places and so couldn’t help but wonder what might have been had he remained fully fit.
“I had a little bit of an Achilles problem leading up to the race, so I had to run the first 200m a little bit flatter than I normally would,” the Notts AC starlet said.
“That meant I wasn’t quite able to run my usual race, and I was limited in what I could do.
“I gave it everything I had, though, and really pushed coming up to the line. But because of the slower start, I gave myself a little bit too much to do and it just wasn’t enough.
“It was really frustrating to pick up the injury because all of my training has been going all right and I was looking in good shape before it hit. I think I could have got into the final if it hadn’t happened.
“However there was a time when I didn’t think I would be able to run at all, so I am happy that I managed to get out there and get the experience. I can’t wait for another chance to do it all over again.”
Despite seeing his Olympic dream come to a premature end at the Sogutlu Stadium, Needham’s Turkish trip will live long in his memory. After pulling on the Team GB colours for the first time, he is already hungry for more.
“I am not going to pretend I am not disappointed I didn’t make the final because I am,” he added. “But the whole experience was amazing.
“I have to look at the bigger picture and realise that I have just competed for Great Britain at a Youth Olympic event.
“That is amazing and I certainly want to do it again and again. Next time, I will be looking to win it.”
THIS article was supplied by Lloyds TSB, which is a proud partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and official supporter of Team GB on their journey to the European Youth Olympic Festival. Visit: www.lloydstsb.com/london2012