Paralympian Profile: Q & A with Ben Rushgrove
15/06/2015 - Jade Hansford
Paralympic sprinter superstar Ben Rushgrove is a local hero and role model to many! Not only has he set a world record and won multiple medals, including a bronze medal in the T36 men’s 200m at London 2012, he has been instrumental in helping to create the new Sports “Rush” website. Over the past year he has volunteered many hours to work closely with us and the web design team to make the website accessible to all and give people with disabilities all over the West of England region the opportunity to become involved in sport.
Q: How did you first get in to sport, and has athletics always been your main sport?
I’ve always been the type of person who played each and every sport averagely, but enthusiastically! I first got in to athletics through my PE teacher at Treloars School, who took about 25 of us to the athletics championships in Blackpool every year – it was our biggest school trip and we all had a whale of a time each year! When I got to my final year, I decided to do a bit of training (3 sessions worth!) and ended up winning the 100m. After the race the school were approached by a talent scout who had attended the event and seen me win my race. It was only by luck I got spotted on that day as the scout had missed his train and stayed around to watch!
Q: What has been your biggest motivation in sport?
My biggest motivation is to be the best I can be. I like to push the boundaries of my body and mind, and to me this is a bigger challenge than winning medals. I am continuously looking at ways to self- improve. I could run the best race of my life, but still finish last – and that’s okay.
Q: What has been your proudest achievement/moment?
This is a tricky one, as there have been so many it’s hard to choose! If I have to choose one, it would probably be my silver medal in the 100m at Beijing 2008. This was my first ever Paralympic games, and I turned up at the airport on crutches with a broken foot, I knew I was going to race, but to win a medal was very unexpected!
Q: What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
This is another hard one as I am happy with where I am and with what I have achieved. I have no regrets.
Q: Tell us about your claim that your car (a silver mini) is the only car in Bath to have passed through the gates of Buckingham Palace..!?
Just after Beijing in 2008, we got invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. I hadn’t been driving long, and as I normally get the train to London, I thought it would be cool to drive there! We arrived early and couldn’t find anywhere to park, so ended up driving up and down The Mall and pulled in at a defence place. We were then approached by a man wearing his army clothes, carrying his weapons telling us we had to move – until he realised I was serious about being here to meet the Queen! We then parked in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace – it must be the only place in London you can park for free!
Q: Who are your main rivals, and what are your plans for the coming season?
I am quite lucky, I have a few! I say lucky as having rivals allows me to be the best I can be. One would be Graeme Ballard, who recently ran a fastest time. Graeme has been a permanent fixture, who is still beating everyone! Another is my training partner Paul, who I get on well with – but it’s always good to try and beat him! My plan for this coming season is to hopefully qualify for the IPC World Championships in Doha this October.
Q: How do you stay focused when you are on the world stage?
It’s important to concrete on what you can control. Psychology plays a massive part in sport and one of my favourite quotes is “everyone gets butterflies; the trick is to make the butterflies fly in formation.”
Q: You have achieved so much, but being a top level athlete is also about coping with disappointment. What are your coping strategies?
My biggest coping strategy is to have other stuff going on. I have tried to be a full-time athlete, but it drove me insane as I have to be doing stuff all the time! At training camps I need to have a good book to read to keep me occupied. Before 2012 I read ‘playing the enemy’, which is a brilliant book! I also work on other projects that I feel passionate about, which allow you to see the bigger picture as you have to be careful not to let your whole life revolve around medals.
Q: How would you sum up your relationship with your coach, Rob Ellchuk?
Relationships with coaches are complicated and changing and I’ve seen more of Rob than of my parents in my lifetime. Being a coach is a very hard job, and they often don't get enough credit. Rob has a t-shirt which says ‘good coaches build good people’ and as a coach that’s what you are trying to do! Coaching and training has to be varied, interesting and different as every athlete is varied, interesting and different! Good coaches challenge you, which can lead to complex situations.
Q: You are a very busy man, training, giving motivational talks and involved in many projects - but how do you like to relax in your spare time (if you have any!!)
I spend time with my girlfriend, and like to watch TV documentaries. I am actually currently looking to find some funding to create a TV document which will look at the impact different cultures around the world have on people with disabilities – which is something I am really interested in and passionate about.
Q: You are a role model to many people – but who are your role models and inspirations?
In my opinion to qualify as a role model people need to meet 2 criteria; they have to have made a genuine difference to humanity and they have to be dead. People who I see as role models are Christopher Hitchens, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein - who was a genius ahead of his time.
Q: There will be lots of young athletes reading this, so what advice would you give to others just starting out in an athletics career to help them reach their dreams?
I would say to have fun and enjoy every moment! I believe it’s important to not be outcome focused – focus on the process and then the end game!