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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Comeback Kid

Flash Fiction
Length - 497 words

Originally written for a competition that was using the central theme 'Start'.

Coming back from injury can be the hardest part of a young athlete's career, and it's something Jamie has had to put up with more than most. Now it's the start of the new track season and he's donned his spikes once more. Will things finally go according to plan?

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Comeback Kid
 
Spend a day walking the streets of London and you’ll sneeze the city’s ink for a week, but the running track forms a clearing in the concrete jungle and the air is thick instead with sweat and anticipation.
                Today is the first round of the regional qualifiers for a place in the national meet to be held in Birmingham in a few months time. The start of a new season means the crowd is swollen with first timers, chattering away and applauding nonsensically at anything their babe minds pick out as a cue. I can feel their vacuous encouragement clamouring for attention on the back of my neck as I warm up, carried on a strong tailwind that’s already thrown up some pretty quick results today and given wings to the lucky losers.
 
They call me the Comeback Kid. I’ve already had numerous career defining injuries during my short time in spikes. As a junior I’d break records every time they cracked the pistol, until one nasty fall took me out of the game for four months. I count it as one of my greatest comebacks even though it was more challenging mentally than physically. A lot of the best potential athletes are lost at this tender age of educational uncertainty, the time out makes them concentrate on different areas of study and new career paths open up inside their distracted minds.
 I, however, remained committed. The setbacks never cease but I keep coming back faster and stronger than before.
 
‘...one to watch is Jamie Underwood in lane five, coming off the back of another serious injury, but I hear he’s been posting personal bests in training. What are your thoughts, Edward? A talented runner if he can keep his body in check.’
                ‘Oh undoubtedly John. His record as a flat runner is prestigious for one who has spent so little time actually competing. He will insist on hurdling though, claiming it’s his favoured discipline.’
                ‘And there he goes, bursting out of the blocks at some speed! He couldn’t have asked for a better start.’
                ‘You’re right John, and you can see he’s just added an extra stride to his pattern as he approaches the bend and leaves the favour of this stiff wind that’s been-‘ 
                ‘Oh no! It’s happened again! Terrible scenes here as the leader’s foot catches on the barrier and sends him crashing to the ground.’
                ‘A familiar story for this young talent I’m afraid, and by the looks of it, this could be another bad injury for him...’
 
They’ll say that it’s unfortunate it happened on the first race of the season - but I operate in reverse, and am instead celebrating a spectacular climax. ‘DNF’ might mean ‘did not finish’ to you, but to me it reads victory. I get to start over from zero, fighting my body’s quit calls against this state of perpetual rehabilitation I set it. And this time, as always, it will be harder. My season starts here.
 
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