WIGAN Athlete Jenny Meadows will draw a line under her 18-month injury nightmare when she leads Great Britain’s medal assault at the European Indoor Championships this weekend.
The Wigan Harrier has been chosen to captain the GB and NI squad at the tournament in Sweden – after just one race back from her career-threatening Achilles injury.
Meadows only decided to compete in the international event after finishing second in the 800m at the British Grand Prix meeting in Birmingham.
And she admits the surprise invitation to be captain has given her an extra reason to be cheerful about her return to action.
The 31-year-old told the Observer: “I was surprised really because I wasn’t even sure I was going to do any indoor races.
“But once I decided to do the Europeans, I got a call inviting me to be the captain. I was laughing because after all I’ve been through – not running in 18 months and then, all of a sudden, racing and getting the captaincy – it felt surreal.
“It was a nice surprise, and it’s been good for me. It’s not just a case of, ‘here’s your spot back’, they obviously think a lot of me and are making sure I feel welcome back.
“It’s put a spring in my step – it’s definitely a career highlight.”
Meadows’ career was in the ascendancy when injury struck her down.
In 2011, she was crowned national champion, won gold and silver medals at the European Indoors and topped the prestigious Diamond League.
She put off Achilles surgery in a desperate bid to make the TeamGB squad for the London Olympics, but after being overlooked, went under the knife – and will speak about her comeback when she addresses the rest of the squad on the eve of the tournament.
“I’ll be concentrating on my own event, but I hope I show that you can have a long time away from the sport and if you show your character, you can come back,” added Meadows, who is hoping to be racing on successive days, starting with Friday’s heat. “Things don’t go perfect and it’s a test of your character when they don’t. I shocked everyone by coming back so soon to competitive racing. Everything has gone fine.
“Physically I’m not in the best shape after so long out, but my injury won’t be holding me back, it’s just a case of trying to make up for the sheer volume of work I missed out on.”
Meadows sees no reason why she can’t be “in PB form” in time for the outdoor World Championships later this year.
She says the long injury lay-off has changed her outlook on the sport.
“I’ve been competing since I was seven, and I have always been stressed,” she laughed. “I’ve never enjoyed a performance.
“But this has made me realise that you never know when your last race will be. I’m more relaxed.
“I hope to race at Rio (in the Olympics) but you don’t know what will happen. All I know is I’ve got a second chance – and I’m determined to enjoy it.”