By Megan Smiley, Aug 3 2018 02:02PM

It honestly isn’t an exaggeration to say that being in London for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics was one of the best times of my life. I loved watching all the different sports and was lucky enough to see athletics, hockey, basketball, football, handball, and a dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony. But it was the atmosphere and the buzz, not just at the events or in the Olympic Park, but right across London that I loved the most. When I think back to that time I remember people smiling a lot, people being more positive, understanding, welcoming and happy… I mean there were even strangers talking to each other on the tube! It really was a great time.

Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014 very successfully and apparently there was a similar feel around the city, maybe not to the same degree as London 2012 but an undeniable positivity that sport has the power to install in people and a place. Now Glasgow is the joint host, alongside Berlin, of the 2018 European Championships where over 3000 athletes from 52 European nations are competing in six sports over 11 days.

So I’m very happy I’m living in Glasgow to experience this sporting event. Over the next week and a bit I’ll get to see gymnastics, road cycling and mountain biking, as well as going to a number of the cultural festivities the city is putting on for the Championships.

It’s already been quite a summer of sporting excitement what with the World Cup in Russia. However, I have to say I think I slightly missed out on the excitement and buzz that was experienced south of the Scottish border! So England have had their sporting moment for the summer, and it’s now time for Scotland to enjoy their sporting moment by hosting what I hope will be a great 11 days of competition and celebrations.

By Megan Smiley, Feb 16 2018 03:08PM

I tweaked a muscle in my shoulder yesterday which meant I had to stop the full body strength training session I was halfway through and transition the session into a lying down leg and ab focused workout! I was annoyed as it messed up my training plan for the week, plus it is pretty sore to turn my head to the left...

I then got some perspective on the situation as I was thinking about the 3,000 athletes currently competing at the Winter Olympics, and all the others that trained but because of an injury/situation weren’t competing. For people where sport is not only their passion and profession but their whole life, what must it feel like to pick up an injury or illness resulting in missing your chance you’ve been building up to and worked so hard for? Also, what about those cruel mishaps like Elise Christie’s hand getting knocked and her missing out on a medal in the short-track speed skating, especially after missing out on a medal in all three of her disciplines in Sochi four years ago.

To many the thought of being a top athlete where training is your job, might sound like a lot of fun but as with many things, the grass is always greener from afar. Whilst training and competing the pressure is immense, the training relentless and the sacrifices many. The money side of things can also be difficult, with funding and sponsorship limited to those at the top of their game, it can often be a struggle to support the training programmes, diet and lifestyle required.

But what seems like the hardest part is retirement, which even if they have a long and injury-free career, is very early compared to most others professions. There can be a difficult transition into “normal” life, and apart from coaching or commentating, for which there isn’t the demand to accommodate the number of retired athletes, then there isn’t always a clear career path for them. Although “past it” in the world of competing these are people who are still in their prime but often feel lost, lacking an identity and purpose now that they’re out of the adrenaline-fuelled limelight.

Then there are the physiological effects from reduced levels of exercise and new lifestyle patterns that can cause all sorts of issues too, and the social side of things - often when competing they are surrounded by people and are part of a team, when retired they can miss these close relationships that for so many years have been a massive part of their life. The fact that the cases of depression and suicides in retired athletes is above average reflects what is a challenging and sometimes devastating time for some.

So I’ll be admiring and cheering on all the athletes currently in Pyeongchang, in particular Elise Christie in her next two races. I really hope she gets a medal not (just) for Team GB but for all the hard work she and so many others have put in.

By Megan Smiley, Jul 11 2014 09:25AM

Living in London you can become a little nonchalant about all the amazing opportunities on offer, I know I have. When I moved to London over six years ago I had a list as long as my arm of things I was going to do. I have slowly ticked off quite a few of them but there are still plenty of things on there too. However, when I visited Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park that opened to the public in April this year, I saw people trying out the track in the Velodrome and upon realising that they were on a 'track taster session' that anyone can do for a very reasonable £30, this jumped to the top of my 'things to do in London' list.

The hour long session was as good as I had hoped. The mix of anticipation and nerves about cycling a fixed wheel bike with my feet strapped in so tightly that I wouldn't be about to put a foot down in a panicky moment on a wooden track with banks that seem a lot higher up close, disappeared as soon as I started cycling. The instructor was great and the group of about 15, a mix of ages and abilities, were all made to feel comfortable and encouraged to the right level to get the most out of the session.

I loved every bit of it, especially towards the end of the session when I was up by the fence at the top on the bank looking down at the beautifully crafted wooden track thinking about the stars who have cycled on it, albeit a little faster than I was going, but the same track nevertheless!

My only criticism is the fact that Better, the organisation who run the leisure facilities at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and other sports facilities across London, aren’t shouting about this and the other opportunities available at the park: day passes for the Aquatic Centre or the gym in the Cooper Box both only £10, as well as the new Hockey and Tennis Centre that boasts indoor and outdoor courts and pitches.

Sport can be expensive and therefore elitist, however, here is a great example of where it isn't. It's accessible and pretty reasonably priced, this opens doors for 'normal' people to try out world class facilities without having to be one of the best swimmers in the country or know the boss of British Cycling!

There has been much talk of the legacy of London 2012 and a lot of negativity towards the lack of momentum post the Games. With unanswered questions such as: are more girls being encouraged to play sport, and are underprivileged children receiving opportunities to develop their sporting skills still prevalent, then we should really be promoting facilities like the ones at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and getting people excited about sport like they were two summers' ago. Something along the lines of 'if you've got it flaunt it' springs to mind!