As a F44 discus thrower, Dan Greaves competed for Team England at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer, having made his Commonwealth Games debut in Glasgow in 2014, where he became Commonwealth champion. At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Dan won Bronze, which marked his sixth Paralympic medal, becoming the first British track and field athlete to win a medal at six consecutive Paralympic Games, and at the Athens Paralympics in 2004, he broke the World Record when he won Gold for Great Britain. Dan has had a hugely successful athletics career so far, winning numerous medals around the world throughout the years, including at the European Para Championships, and his next major target is the World Championships in Paris in 2023. Catching up with Dan, he spoke about competing for Team England at the Commonwealth Games this year in Birmingham, becoming the first British track and field athlete to win a medal at six consecutive Paralympic Games when he won Bronze in Tokyo and some of his highlights of his successful sports career.
How was it competing recently at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as Team England’s F44 discus thrower and what do you enjoy most about competing in front of a home crowd?
It was, again, a huge honour to pull on the White and Red of England. Being a home Games and already having experienced London 2012, we hoped that the advantage we got from the home crowd would be the same, and it was. The energy in the stadium after the eery silence of Tokyo was amazing and it definitely felt like there were more than 30k fans in the stadium!
What was the experience like taking part in the Queen’s Baton Relay in July ahead of the Games?
It was great to be a part of the baton relay and be chosen to do it through Loughborough, a town with such sporting heritage and also the prep camp was extra special.
You previously competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, what was it like winning Gold at your Commonwealth Games debut?
It was amazing. The atmosphere inside Hampden Park was electric. They really got behind us and I knew I could throw far as I was in great shape breaking the 60m barrier the first time a few weeks before, and to seal England’s first track and field Gold was extra special. Also, to hear Jerusalem for the first time was extra special too!
You won Bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, how was it preparing for the competition and how different did you find competing at a Paralympics during the pandemic?
It was quite strange, in 2020 when the pandemic hit, we tried to get creative to keep on training and had to throw off of a rugby club’s patio onto one of their playing fields. As we were slowly allowed to get back to training at the high performance centre, things felt a lot more normal but having months on end of disrupted training it took us a while to get back into full competition shape.
The Games itself was unique and different to any Games previous. It was so well put together, we all felt safe and they did an exceptional job under the tough circumstances.
This marked your sixth Paralympic medal, how did it feel becoming the first British track and field athlete to win a medal at six consecutive Paralympic Games?
It was a truly special moment. Under those tough circumstances of prepping for the Games, not having many comps beforehand to prepare and all of the adaptive training was all worth it.
The competition itself was monsoon-like conditions and I wish I’d have performed to what I knew I could have thrown, which maybe could have been Silver, but to walk away medalling every time at every Paralympics meant a lot to me.
What was the atmosphere like attending the ParalympicsGB Homecoming Concert?
It was brilliant to share the success and moments with friends and family who couldn’t make the Games, but also to have a crowd to cheer us was very nice!
Do you have any favourite memories from attending the Paralympic Games over the years, which saw you make your debut at Sydney in 2000?
I think making many friends, the many opening and closing ceremonies, but I guess the stand-out Games has to be London. The buzz of those ten days of sport was something else and competing in front of 80,000 fans in the Olympic Stadium was truly something special.
Last year, you competed at the European Para Championships, winning Silver, can you tell us about returning to international competitions after the pandemic stopped sporting events?
I used that loss to fuel my season. I came into it in much better shape and not retaining a title I hadn’t lost really hurt. But I think the most daunting part was a high level competition away from the UK, meeting COVID testing protocols and hoping you didn’t catch it or it affected our prep for the major Games in Tokyo. It did feel nice to pull on the GB vest again.
What are some of your stand-out highlights from your career as an elite athlete so far?
I guess looking back at my long career, it would be the collection of medals. Each one tells a different story and has been earned with a different performance, or preparation. If I was to single one out, it would be winning in Athens in 2004 and breaking the World Record to win the Gold. To reach the pinnacle of your sport and hear that national anthem is something not many get to do.
Do you remember how you felt representing Team England and Great Britain for the first time?
I was super excited to get the kit, but more so as it was a combined multi-sport Games with our able-bodied counterparts, it was a fun experience.
What is a typical training day for you and how does it differ in the lead-up to a major competition?
A full-on day’s training is a discus session for about one-and-a-half hours and then a gym session, a medal session, some core and physio.
Competition phases are generally lighter so we can recover from the combo of training and comps.
Where does your love of sport come from and how did you get into discus?
I think my parents are definitely the key to why I’m so sporty. My father and mother both love sports and encouraged me to take part in a multitude of sports. I was noticed at school that I threw further than the other kids so I went to an athletics club and the rest is history, as they say.
Have you been given any advice throughout your career that has stuck with you and what advice would you give a young athlete starting out?
“Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal, it’s the courage to continue that counts.”
I got told this by an older coach once. I think it lends great perspective at what sport can throw at you. I’ve had great highs and lows in sport but if you always believe in yourself and continue, you never know what you can achieve if you give up!
My advice to a young athlete starting their path would be: make sure you have the most fun, enjoy learning all about your event and to keep at it even if it feels like you’re not progressing.
How do you like to spend your time away from your sporting career?
I like to read, mix house music, ride my mountain bike and see friends. I think it’s vitally important to have positive distractions.
Do you have any competitions coming up that you can tell us about or that you are targeting?
Our next major target is the World Championships in Paris in 2023, and I won’t be prepping for that until May 23.
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