Olivia Breen has vowed to use her Rio 2016 Paralympics ‘heartbreak’ as motivation for future success.
The 20-year-old had been chasing medals on three fronts in Brazil this summer, only to fall painfully short in her quest for a podium place.
Indeed, the former City of Portsmouth athlete was left devastated by the manner in which she missed out on a potential silver medal in the women’s T35-38 4x100m relay.
Talented Breen, who has cerebral palsy, had expected to follow up seventh and 12th-placed finishes in the 100m and long jump respectively, by assuming her customary role in Team GB’s sprint quartet.
Having been a part of the team which won bronze in London 2012 and claimed world gold in Qatar last year, she was stunned, though, to learn on the day of the race she was being replaced in the line-up.
Kadeena Cox, who had won bronze ahead of Breen in the 100m final, was preferred by selectors – despite never having ran with the team.
For Breen, it represented a bitter pill to swallow.
‘Finding out on the day of the relay that I was not going to be in the team was a big shock,’ she said.
‘I got a text message two hours before we got on the bus down to the track to ask for a meeting.
‘They had made a decision and I was not on the team.
‘It was really heartbreaking.
‘I had to go down to the track to be put on reserve and that was the hardest thing I have ever done as an athlete.
‘At the end of the day anything could have happened – someone could get injured in training – I just had to be strong, brave and show character.’
While Breen understood the reasons for the decision, it did not make it any easier for her to accept.
She said: ‘There were two GB girls in the same class as me and the relay team can only have two T38s so they put the other girl (Cox) in front of me.
‘That was despite the fact she had done no training and hadn’t been a part of the team.
‘I had been on the team for four years so it was a big shock.’
Breen may have arrived home empty-handed but there were positives to be taken from her Rio adventure – on and off the track.
She added: ‘The time I ran in the 100m final would have won me gold in London and I had a foul jump on one distance in the long jump that would have won me a bronze medal.
‘It’s gutting and frustrating, but in sport you have good days and bad days.
‘Give it a few months and I will come out of this a better person, motivated to compete next year in a home World Championships in London.
‘Then in the future is Tokyo 2020.
‘For now, though, it’s great to just be back home. The showers out there (in Rio) were freezing and the food was awful – I lost 5lb.
‘I need to put it all back on by eating junk food and I am loving eating chocolate, sweets and pizza!
‘I am enjoying having four weeks off and then I’m right back into it.’