The 2024 Olympic Games begin in Paris on July 26th, with the Paralympic Games commencing just four weeks later on August 28th. Now we’re into 2024, the BEAA knows many of its members will be preparing for Paris and entering the most critical quarter of their Olympic and Paralympic cycle.
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But we also know that only some athletes can travel to Paris, and that not everyone will be able to compete at the Games. Whether you’re targeting 2024 or looking more closely at 2028, we asked BEAA staff for their advice on the year ahead – and how you can rely on us throughout.
Below, hear from Olympic champion and our CEO Anna Watkins, Athlete Support Manager Elaine Francis, and seven-time Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft.
If you need our support, please reach out via the below channels:
🇫🇷 It’s #1YearToGo until the #Paris2024 Olympic Games
Olympians, aspiring Olympians, and those who won’t compete, we are with you every step of the way
Below, our staff explain the year ahead, our role in Tokyo, and our support for those athletes not competing ⬇️#BEAAWithYou pic.twitter.com/UeVUJSjmF2
— British Elite Athletes Association (@GBEliteAthletes) July 26, 2023
How should I approach the next year?
Hannah Cockroft: “The next 12 months are going to be filled with questions and requests and you need to get comfortable with the word ‘no’ and really find your focus. It is going to be so, so easy with the opportunities presented to you to get distracted from training and not keep working hard, so please remember what you’ve worked so, so hard on for the last few years. Don’t waste it, don’t waste the opportunity ahead of you.
“Please just enjoy because every second of the work you’re about to put in because Paris will 100% be worth it. Keep your focus, enjoy every second, and I’ll see you out there!”
What will the year ahead look like?
Anna Watkins: “For somebody preparing for the Paris Games, this year will be quite clearly the most intense year of the cycle. It will just mean more, each selection, each event; there isn’t another year to get it right – it has to be right this time. And that feeling will only ramp up through the year.
“For some athletes selection will feel almost a bigger deal than the Games themselves. We understand that, that amount of stress and pressure. We understand that our athletes need to focus day to day and be in the moment of what they do.”
What does BEAA support like during a major Games period?
Elaine Francis: “Our support is the same as it is outside of a major competition. Same people, same faces, same knowledge and expertise. We are approachable, we will listen to you, and ultimately we want the same outcome as you do, that’s right for you.”
What can I speak to the BEAA about while out in Paris?
Elaine: “We’ve had contacts from athletes who had got to the airport and were concerned about having the right piece of paperwork and we luckily had the relationships with sports to make sure that was a smooth transition. We had athletes out there who ranged from anything from just struggling a little bit with the environment they were in and we just checked in with them every couple of days to say hi and make sure they were doing okay, to concerns that were reported directly to us that we then had to work with the NGBs to make sure they were resolved.
“Don’t sit there and let it fester and become something that then overshadows your Games experience, or potentially impacts your performance. Make contact with us and we will work with you and your sport to try and get it resolved.”
What should my mindset be?
Anna: “Everybody will be united by this sense that the Games does only come around once every four years and that it’s going to be defining for them in some way or another. It’s going to be part of their life story.
“So they’ll be feeling like this is not a time to get injured, this is not a time to make mistakes, and the challenge with that is you can’t think like that: you have to think positively about what you can do, what you can control. I think all of our members will be trying to control what they can in their day to day.
“They’ll be trying to get their training right, trying to be in the moment, not think too far ahead, not be on the start line before they need to be but build up the pieces in place day by day.”
I’m concerned about being selected later than other athletes. Does that matter?
Anna: “Our membership are the best athletes the UK has. They are there for really good reasons. Whether they might win the thing or whether they are the last person selected for the British team: they’re there for a reason. They deserve to be there and they need to own that space.
“The Games is an athletes’ playground. For me that was the most helpful thought: the world has built me a playground, and I’d love for our members to take that thought with them.”
Who can I speak to if I don’t qualify for Paris?
Anna: “We’re really, really aware that our athletes will fall into several groups this year. There will be those who make the Games, there will be those for whom this year is a great learning experience and they will perhaps go on and make a future Games, and there will be those for whom it doesn’t work out this year. For those athletes it can be an incredibly tough time because a lot of people around them will see what they’ve done as a success and it will be a while before that athlete can see what they’ve done as a success.
“What we’re here for, for those athletes, is to recognise them as athletes, for the contribution they’ve made to their sport and to sport in the UK. To show that we understand those journeys and those highs and lows. And also to know that there are people who understand. As an athlete myself I got my result and I know plenty of athletes who were at least as good as I was, and didn’t get that [result]. It really wasn’t their fault; things are a bit of a lottery.
“People understand that and understand the perspective that all the praise and adoration gets put on to certain people because it’s obvious what they’ve done and easy to write a story and they’ll get media attention and so on. We know the reality is more nuanced and complicated than that.
“We know there are great champions who got injured, we know there are people who made huge contributions to their team and don’t get to be part of that team. We understand that complexity: it’s not as simple as the TV would tell it to be. We’re here to help athletes through that and to connect them with other athletes who do understand that as well.”
How has the BEAA supported its members through past Games?
Elaine: “We recognised that Tokyo was probably going to be one of the most challenging Games for our athletes because of the complexities with Covid. So we really wanted to make sure that any athletes, pre-, during or post-Games, as well as their nearest and dearest, had somewhere that was independent in the system where they could make contact with us.
“We worked with the British Paralympic Association and British Olympic Association and set up a 24/7 athlete support service where they could contact us over the phone, over the computer, or by sending us a text. There would be an Athlete Support Manager available to them at any time to have a conversation, report a concern, or whatever they needed in that moment.”