With the London Olympic and Paralympic games right around the corner, time is running out for Oxonian athletes looking to compete on this hallowed stage. When he’s not penning his history essays, Christ Church second-year Daniel Hooker is out on the Iffley Road track in a bid to qualify for London 2012.
This summer we could be seeing Daniel represent Great Britain in the 100m, 200m or long jump in the Paralympic tournament. He has two limbs which are affected by cerebral palsy and although he played squash for his school team in sixth form, he realised that disabled sport would allow him to race at the highest level.
‘At 15 you realise, this game’s not fair,’ Daniel commented. ‘I’m the sort of person where I want to be the best at everything – I’m just competitive like that. Once I knew I was in a fair game I wanted to be the best.’
This motivation has driven him to within touching distance of the upcoming games. Daniel is well on top of his training and is close to reaching the qualification standards. He said, ‘In the gym where I have most of the numbers to look at I’m now where expected to be in maybe a month.
‘I haven’t had any injuries – I think I’ve only missed one training session so far which is obviously really positive.’
Daniel’s aim is to shave almost forty seconds off his 100m time and jump half a meter further – goals which are ‘not impossible’.
‘I definitely think I’m a contender for London,’ he argued. ‘I’ve got the B standards in 100m and the long jump – I’ll need the A at least but I’m in the ball park where its realistic to think that I could do it.’
He has already raced at Gateshead and Crystal Palace – Britain’s two premier athletics venues – and believes that competing in the Olympic Stadium would ‘be that times five.’
‘This is what you train for. You get your name up on the big screen, you get announced over the loudspeaker at the start,’ he added. ‘You feel like you’ve made it.’
Regardless of his improvements on the track, it’s likely Daniel will get a run out at the Stratford arena in the next few months. He admitted, ‘There’s a test event which I’ve been invited to, so I’m hoping that I’ll get the chance to see it before the big thing whatever happens with qualification.’
While London would be an incredible experience, it is the 2016 games in Rio which Daniel is targeting for medal success.
‘I’ve made a pact with myself that I’ll go through to Rio,’ he said. ‘I’ll be 24, I’ll be in my prime – if I haven’t won medals by then , it’s never really going to happen so I’ll move on in my life.’
Nevertheless he remained optimistic about his chances, adding, ‘Hopefully I’ll have just won a Paralympic title and I’ll be preparing to win another one!’
Although he believes there aren’t too many avenues to become wealthy in Paralympic sport, Daniel is keen to have a career in athletics. He said, ‘It won’t be very well paid and it’ll be until you’re 35 but I would love to do it – getting paid to jump into a sand pit every day sounds like a lot of fun!’
If the sporting side doesn’t work out for him, Daniel’s backup plan is to work as a lawyer or a civil servant. He hasn’t ruled out coaching either – he currently helps with the training of other athletes at Oxford.
Despite the stress of the degree, Daniel still maintains a good work-life balance. He enjoys his social life with his fellow competitors while keeping on top of his weekly deadlines. Above all however, it is his love of athletics which spurs him on. He professed, ‘I came into the athletics because it was the big Paralympic sport, but it’s just good fun jumping into a sand pit for a long way!’