No athlete looks to the future and sees a worst-case scenario. All in all, sport is the land of dreams and illusions, of the wise and the believing – those who are so focused on a bright spot on the horizon that they often fail to sense the immediate danger. eye. Then one day their career was in ruins.
In 2017, Brian Gregan was Ireland’s top runner on track at the World Championships in London, finishing sixth in the men’s 400m semi-final in 45.42 seconds. A few weeks ago, he hacked his personal record down to 45.26, just behind David Gillick on Ireland’s all-time list. “If I wanted a crystal ball then,” he said, “I was thinking: 44 seconds, that’s the European medal and the Olympic final.”
But what happened next?
Four years of trauma: silent minor muscle or tendon tears, stress fractures, bursts of inflammation, a new problem that emerges just after he’s conquered the last game, like a brutal game yet there.
What made it harder was how entrenched he was. Since his school days, athletics has been the sun his world revolves around, and when it’s taken away, well, things don’t go well.
“It was a very dark time,” he said.
Nothing can gnaw at him more than seeing others do the activities he loves at a time when he’s out, whether it’s watching the Diamond League on TV or standing on the field at Santry.
“I hated it. I really hated it,” he said. I resent the sport a little bit. I love athletics, but when you’ve spent five years with an injury, trying to watch it on TV is horrible. Going racing is tough.”
Gregan was once a teenage prodigy, an imposing figure whose enormous stride shielded the speed at which he was moving. In 2006, he broke the middle boys’ 400m record at the Irish Schools Championship, reaching 48.65 at the age of 16. At an event to showcase future stars, he looked the brightest in Tullamore today. that day.
But then the problems started. Three days after that race, Gregan tore his conductor from his bones during a track session in his native Tallaght. “A career-ending injury right there,” he said.
It wasn’t too much of a point of his own, but one by the professional he was meeting with put it on for him. “He was basically saying, pack it up, you’re not going to get it back,” says Gregan.
That sounds like a challenge. Gregan underwent physical therapy three times a week for the next year, usually completing pre-school rehabilitation during his senior cycle at St Mark’s in Tallaght.
It took 18 months for him to be able to sprint again, but two years after the injury, he returned to the Irish Schools Championship, breaking the senior boys’ 400m record with 47.66, a personal achievement. the best scorer he dropped to 46.70 that summer.
Under the guidance of coach John Shields, he subsequently lowered his PB for five consecutive years while at DCU, winning the 2011 European Under-23 silver medal, despite having made the level. but Gregan is yet to be able to attend the Olympics, short of standards. in 2012 and 2016, with injuries ruining his shot at Tokyo 2020.
His lingering health nightmare can be traced back to 2017, when Gregan missed two months of training that spring after suffering a mild case of gastroenteritis. Since then, it has been difficult to find consistency.
In 2018, he was in his best form ever in the spring, aiming for a medal at the European Championship in Berlin, when he suffered a stress fracture in his ankle, within a few days. month was misdiagnosed as a bone bruise.
After meeting James Calder in the UK – an ankle surgeon who works with Premier League stars – he was put under the knife in December of that year.
After returning to training, a minor injury to the Achilles tendon sheath in early 2019 took him another three months. He returned to the track that summer, feeling in good shape ahead of the Morton Games, but during his first block session two days before the race, he triggered tendonitis. show off. Back to scraps.
“That was pretty grim,” he said.
It kept happening: hamstring and calf injuries starting in 2020, followed by a tear in his meniscus in the summer.
He’s heeded his doctor’s advice to rehabilitate rather than have surgery and get back to working out – at least for a while. The 2021 indoor season was wiped out by a calf tear, the outdoor season by a hamstring tear, and if at this stage you’re tired of reading about these injuries, imagine enduring them. How tedious it would be.
Something had to change. Over the past year, Gregan has agreed to Shields’ recommendation that he switch his workouts to a five-day cycle (instead of six), while in the gym under the supervision of John Cleary. He advocates lifting big weights through a small range of motion, an inverse approach that makes “huge difference”.
His girlfriend, Ciara McCallion, is a former 400m runner and physical who worked with the Irish Olympic team in Tokyo, and her personal and expert support was key to Gregan’s endurance.
He now works 20 hours a week as a PE teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin – a job that gives him the flexibility and financial support to continue pursuing his dreams.
Gregan is no longer sponsored by Athletics Ireland, but highlights the support he received from them during his darkest days, specifically from high-performance director Paul McNamara.
He’s had no problems in recent months, but the giggles Gregan feels are the kind of fire he can put out before they get out of hand.
In February, two years after his last race, he finally got back to the starting line, scoring 47.42 in Athlone. A national bronze medal helped him get selected for the men’s 4x400m at this week’s World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Gregan’s first international since 2017.
“With an Irish vest, it’s pride,” he said. “It’s not just for me, it’s for my coach, my family, for Ciara – everyone who has spent time with me.”
Gregan isn’t delusional enough to think the injury will magically leave him, but, at 32, he can see a brighter path ahead. For most of the past five years, that was not the case.
“Hopefully we are at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “My body has so many miles left. It’s like a car that’s been sitting in the driveway for five years.”
After expressing his excitement about his choice on social media last week, he has received numerous messages, the gist being that he is an inspiration to many to pursue his career. business in the face of that huge fortune.
“That’s the biggest compliment because so many people have given up,” he said. “So when the day seems to be over, move on. Get up, tick the boxes, even if you feel like it. It’s been a long old road, but with a lot of hard work and smarts, you can get there. ”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/athletics/career-threatening-injuries-fail-to-stop-gregan-on-his-route-to-glory-41447219.html Career-threatening injuries don’t stop Gregan on his way to glory