Danny Crates has enjoyed incredible success as a para-athlete in Great Britain, and carved a path in sport unlike any other. Over 12 years, Danny has picked-up a host of medals and records; including Gold in Athens in 2004, and gold medals at both the European & World Championships, and he smashed the 800m World Record. In 2008, Danny was given the honour of being the Great Britain flag bearer at the Beijing Paralympics at the opening ceremony.
We had a few moments with Danny recently & quizzed him a little on his training & nutrition as a professional athlete:
Danny, thank you for sitting with us, a lot has been made about the 10,000-hour rule in the past couple of years: as a successful athlete for over a decade, do you think that success is a matter of genes, training, or a mixture of the two? "You need to be born with a talent. But that is never enough. It is the hard work and commitment that will get you to the top. History is full of people that could have been".
Arsene Wenger said, 'to perform at your maximum you have to teach yourself to believe with an intensity that goes way beyond logical justification. No top performer has lacked this capacity for irrational optimism; no sportsman has played to his potential without the ability to remove doubt from his mind'" - as a top performer, how did you rationalise/bounce back from missing out on a medal? How did you stay optimistic after a poor performance? "It is the ability to understand that the road to success is not an easy one. Otherwise we would all do it. Even in defeat there is something to be gained".
A lot of athletes, as they become more successful & famous, find their time split between training & commercial appearances (either in a private capacity or on behalf of their country), how did you cope with the fame & attention you received? "It is important to never forget what got you there in the first place, for me that was sport. Take away the sport and there would be no commercial opportunities. But on the flip side. It is healthy to have other distractions in your life. It’s good to taker the mind of off your sport sometimes".
Talk me through what it was like competing at the Athens Paralympics; from the moment you got up in the morning, to walking away as a Gold medallist? "That is a tough question. Most of the day is just killing time, trying to not expend too much energy, but also not be too lethargic. As you can imagine it is a very nervous time as well. When I won, it was relief that I had finally achieved my goal, to become a champion"
How did you handle the pressure & expectation that came with competing? "Pressure and expectation is exhausting and the reason many fail. I personally tried to embrace it, all the extra media attention simply meant less time sitting around in the athletes’ village".
How did your diet change in & out of season? "I never really stuck to a diet. I simply ate good healthy food. At competition though, you could always tell when an athlete had finished competing, just look at their tray"
Did you prefer to eat before you competed, or did you prefer an empty stomach? How early did you have to eat before/after competing? "When and what you eat before a race is so important. The time before is tried and tested in training and smaller race meets. What you eat is like most rituals we have in sport. Ate it once and ran well on it".
Were there any foods you actively avoided? "I actually don’t like some of the foods associated with sport, bananas, porridge and oats!"
How important is a strong support network at the elite level (coaches, physio's, analysts, etc.)? "It’s not just having a strong network, it’s important that you are all on the same page and have the same goals and beliefs"
How did you maintain your motivation over the year? How did you stay motivated once you were the best in the world? (Olympian Gracie Elvin wrote candidly about feeling very down and de-motivated post-Olympics)? "After a major games, we often hit a bit of a low, after the celebration period of course. Being an elite athlete is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. So, when it stops, even if only for a break it is hard to stay motivated. You have to think of it like a job, we have days we want to go to work, and days that we don’t. You spend a large proportion of your career trying to get to the top. If you are lucky enough to get there, the job and motivation is to stay there or even move further ahead"
Did you have any 'game day' rituals or superstitions? What were you doing before you headed to the track (last minute pep-talks, listening to music, etc.) "I always Pinned my numbers and packed my bag in a set order. I would always listen to Anxiety by the black eyed peas before I started my warm up. I always tried to walk out onto the track first. Start where I wanted to finish"
What is you cheat meal & what meal(s) are the most common in your household? "I love Thai food as well as curry. Crisps and chocolate, I have a weakness for"
Has there been a performance in your career that really stands out for you? "Athens for the medal and the World record because it was done in horrendous conditions"
Follow Danny on Twitter for more updates and news on his career post-athletics.