Welsh sailor Micky Beckett has conquered overtraining and burnout to finally realise his Olympic dream.
The Welshman will make a long-awaited Olympic debut at Paris 2024, one of a group of 10 sailors who are the first athletes to be selected by Team GB for the Games.
A rock-solid performer, Beckett bombed out at the World Championships in 2021 and 2022, delving deep for answers and revealing an uncomfortable reality.
"Last year, I went non-stop from January to May and during that time, I barely had two days off," he said.
"It's a strange experience. When you've got a cold or a hangover, there's a tangible symptom that's telling you what's wrong.
"When you've overtrained, you don't have that sense of perspective, you feel the same way as you did the day before. But over the space of months, you've just gradually declined in your mental acuteness, sharpness and energy to get stuff done and it's imperceptible.
Meet the sailors... ⛵
We're kicking things off with @emma_wilson961
Emma won RS:X bronze in Tokyo 2020 but will be competing in the brand new women's iQFOiL class at @Paris2024 🥉 pic.twitter.com/Zu1nqVaBQe
— Team GB (@TeamGB) October 11, 2023
"It's a tough thing that every athlete has to deal with at some point and you just have to learn the lesson."
Beckett learned the lesson indeed, winning silver at August's World Championships to qualify Team GB a quota place that he will take up in 2024.
With the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Games set to inspire people and communities across the country, Beckett hopes that by sharing his story it will give others motivation to get involved in sport.
With a father who worked as a sailing instructor and boat builder, Beckett was born to be on the water, first learning the ropes on his dad's hand-made boat at just five-years-old.
He joined the British Sailing team since 2013 and it took him a decade to make the Olympic team, missing out on selection to Tokyo by the barest of margins.
"I learnt to sail when I was five and spent my whole life trying to get to the Olympics," he said.
"I've had three attempts at trying to qualify, the first one I was nowhere close, the second one I finished second at British trials, and the third time, well here we are. To finally make it, it's quite hard to articulate really."
Beckett is one of over 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support – this is vital for their pathway to the Paris 2024 Games.
A self-confessed sailing obsessive, the ILCA 7 star got a call to go to Tokyo but not the one he'd dreamed of.
"I wasn't selected for the Olympics but I got a call from someone in the production team to say they needed somebody who understood sailing to be what's called a live production spotter," said Beckett.
— Team GB (@TeamGB) October 11, 2023
"I would sit next to the director and advise them on the narrative of the race. Which bits of the race are worth looking at and where the helicopters should be.
"It was an amazing experience and really interesting to go to the Olympics. I knew a lot of the people out there racing and it was a fantastic way to see an event up close.
"But I remember the director actually said to me afterwards: 'it's been good having you here working with us, but make sure actually competing next time the Olympics happens'."
"One of my earliest memories of the Games is my mum waking me up during the Beijing Olympics to watch an incredible 49er race at three o'clock in the morning. To now be going to compete there is pretty special."
Beckett added: "The backing of The National Lottery means a huge amount.
“It enables me to do what I do at the highest level. National Lottery funding allows athletes like me to have the support to train full-time in a world-class environment. “About 30 years ago, that support wasn't there and people couldn't fulfil their potential. I'm immensely grateful for that support."
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen