Missing the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow was a step backwards for Mitchell Watt after medals at the previous three global outdoor championships, but the longer term benefits should be worth it.
“My Achilles tendon was the problem. After the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Shanghai and Eugene it had come to a point where I was no longer able to manage it. It was beyond the point where I could take a step back, receive some treatment and push through.
“You don’t enjoy going to training every day knowing you have to compromise what you’re doing. Even though I’d got away with it for two years, it wasn’t fun and I knew I wasn’t getting the best out of myself.
“I had to take a couple of steps back, which I was more than happy to do, because it will be the right decision in the long run, but it was very disappointing. The World Championships had been the obvious goal for 2013.
“To be honest, it didn’t come as a complete surprise. I had been struggling from early on in the year and it was always in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t make it. I also felt that having won four medals from three World Championships (Berlin, Doha and Daegu) and also the Olympics, I didn’t want to go to Moscow just to for the sake of being there.
“The guys were jumping pretty well this year, so I thought I would have to jump further than I did last year to take a medal, and that’s how it panned out in Moscow.
“The Achilles has been bothering me since a couple of weeks before Daegu 2011, and right through 2012.
“For a few months at the end of last year and into this year I was going pretty well, doing things in training I hadn’t done for over a year. I was training well, I was pain-free, but unfortunately it didn’t last. Even though 2012 was compromised, I wasn’t even doing as much this year as last.
“Next year, with the Commonwealth Games, it’s probably the least important year of the 4-year cycle so I’ll probably use that as a re-building year. I’ll travel and compete, but won’t be pushing it to extremes, and managing my training and competition load sensibly. I’ll then progress things throughout 2015 and 2016.
“It seems a long time-line, having a year off and using next year to re-build, but it will go pretty quickly.
“We’ve got a solid plan. I’m doing an extended rehab which I haven’t taken the time out to do until now. I’ve been travelling to Melbourne regularly to consult Jill Cook, a physiotherapist who is a tendon specialist.
“Surgery was an option, but we saw a few different people and most said it wasn’t the best one. I also spoke to a couple of jumpers who had it and were still having problems 12 months after, even though the surgery went well. That turned me off.
“So we’re doing an extensive strengthening program around the calf and Achilles. Once I start running I’ll be focusing on managing my training load, working on technical aspects of my training. The World Indoors in 2014 is definitely a goal, but we will have to wait and see.
“In the past, when I’ve gone to the track, if I’m feeling good that day I’ve done a full session. Tendons, you’ve really got to manage. Even if you’re feeling good at the beginning you can’t go all-out straight away.
“Given my past – I had a complete break from track and field from 2004 to 2008 as a teenager, where I didn’t touch the track once – I probably don’t have that base level of conditioning that I need to have.
“Jill is monitoring every step. In the past, I’ve had the Achilles checked every time it gets sore, but we need to keep checking up every couple of weeks to make sure it’s alright to move to the next level of training. It’s a three-phase process and we’re at the end of phase one and beginning phase two.
“Coping with being out was strange. I didn’t watch any of the Diamond Leagues. In 2010, when I had my groin injury, I watched it and it just frustrated me. So this year, I took almost a complete break. I watched the 100m final in Moscow to see Usain Bolt, because that’s always exciting, but I didn’t watch any Diamond Leagues, didn’t watch the long jump in Moscow, didn’t look at results at all. I just took my head away from it for a while.
“I’m back at university, playing golf, doing my rehab each day. I do it at the track and then leave it at the track so that it’s not worrying me, I’m not thinking about it, which at this stage is a good thing.
“During my mid-semester I had the chance to get work experience in the law and in media.
“I hadn’t started rehab and wasn’t training; it was probably the first time in my life I haven’t been training or studying. It’s always been study, train, or both.
“I worked with David Grace who is a senior criminal and sports lawyer in Melbourne. He is one of the most respected lawyers in the country. It was really fun. I wouldn’t say I helped him, but I followed him around and he taught me a lot. It was a big learning experience, being in court, working alongside him.
“David is a big athletics fan and was an athlete himself, so we had plenty to talk about. Obviously training and competing is my number one focus but we’ll keep in touch and hopefully do it again in the off-season.
“I did some work with Fox Sports as well, helping a few of the sports reporters out mainly in the AFL (Australian Football League). In all, I had about five weeks in Melbourne fitting in stuff that I can’t do when I’m training.
“Law and sports media, I guess that will come in handy in the long term too.
“Until next time, Mitchell”