Ben Rushgrove: "Sport comes from the human endeavour to win"
The weekend before last was the Olympic team launch in London. Every athlete had a moment where it hit them. For me it was getting the Tube and seeing the sign: Olympic Park This Way. You think, this is so cool!
Monday’s training is speed, Tuesday’s is pool and recovery. Last Monday I was filming in school for a documentary. I like trying to inspire young people. I ask: “If an alien landed on Earth and didn’t know what sport was, what would they think?” They might find it stupid because of the money involved – footballers’ wages, for example – but they’d understand humans naturally want to win. Sport is the natural conclusion of that very human endeavour.
I don’t want to have cerebral palsy. But I wouldn’t be a disabled athlete without it. It’s part of my identity. When I was small a doctor told my mum I would never walk. There’s no bigger motivation than someone telling me I can’t do something.
Wednesday is weights day. Warm up on track, lots of fuels, head off to the gym for squats, bends, God knows what else. I never had a ‘Eureka!’ moment to start running. A PE teacher took me to county meetings and one year I won the 100m in trainers, swim shorts and T-shirt. UK talent spotters were watching and thought, if he can run that time wearing that…
My deafness is almost total. A lot of people thought I’d never talk. I can talk one-to-one, can guess a little what’s going to happen next. In big groups they change topic all the time, I can’t process what just happened and follow the new topic.
My ambition is to see each country in the world. So far I’ve visited 18. I’m looking forward to seeing more dangerous ones. I don’t have a death wish, but a globalised world means actions in the UK affect everywhere else, so we’ve got to make sure we understand what goes on.
Thursday is recovery and bike day. Friday is speed day. I feel I have an ambassadorial role for disability when I travel, but we’re not over the bridge yet in this country. Channel 4 is doing an amazing job of publicising disability sport, and that has a legacy of understanding what it means to be disabled.
There’s real spirit in disability sport – you have a common experience. I liken it to my grandad. He was a wireless operator on a plane in the war and meets the others left to share stories. Nobody else will ever truly understand what it was like to be in that position.
Saturday is weights. And then on Sunday I catch up on sleep! When I eventually rise I eat a lot. It’s very important. I’d like to go for a walk, but it expends energy I’m trying to conserve. I’ll stay home and watch Film4. I live on my own. It’s nice to close the door, sigh and say, thank God for that.
Ben wears the Phonak Audeo S Smart. hearingadvisor.co.uk
Interview by Julian Owen
Illustration: Matt Hollings