I am sure I was not the only Newham person in front of the TV screen shouting and screaming for Christine Ohuruogu as she did us proud, winning for our borough, and for Britain, a gold medal in the 400 metres at the World Athletics Championships, and a bronze in the relay.
It was made all the sweeter because she comes from Newham, from Stratford, and I met her a few years back when the Council honoured her success in the last Olympic Games. She attended the small event with her family. She came across as a lovely young woman from a genuinely close and warm family. We spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future
Dreams. We all have them, but it is through hard work and a determination to stick to them that makes real dreams come true.
Christine has returned to athletics from a year’s ban she earned after missing three routine drugs tests done on athletes during the periods in between competitions. Christine trains at a number of grounds and missed the random tests.
Athletics, rightly, has very strict rules on drug testing…would that other sports were as rigorous. Christine accepted the ban as the rules had been broken, but no experts have said she tried to cheat, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport has cleared her of any intent to deceive. She was guilty of nothing worse than being forgetful or disorganised.
The really impressive thing about Christine is that during the year she was banned she did not sit back and wallow in self-pity. Instead day after day she got out on to the track and into the gym and carried on with her training programme. She had two operations on her legs, and has spent all her remaining energies on trying to clear her name. In winning the World title she was running only the fifth race since her suspension was lifted.
I think she is a good role model for our young people. It is relatively easy to hang on to our dreams when everything is going our way.
What is much harder is to carry on working when we have setbacks – particularly if they are of our own making. But if we keep our focus on that realistic final goal, and work hard, our personal dreams become achievable.
Having visited a large number of schools and colleges over the past year, and met primary-age children right through to school leavers undertaking apprenticeships, I am certain that we are blessed with talent throughout this borough.
But the talent which matters as much as the ability to write, throw the discus, do algebra or sing in tune is the ability to keep your focus when things go wrong.
Our children are returning to school or college this month. I think that we must all encourage every one of them to learn that even though mistakes may be made on the way, if they stick at it and strive hard, those dreams can come true.