David Gillick rings in the New Year with renewed optimism
‘I found it hard to deal with just being an athlete. I also had my grant cut from €40,000, to zero’
David Gillick: will be at the Twisted Pepper this Tuesday discussing his career’s ups and downs.
For as long as he can remember, David Gillick rang in the New Year with some boldly ambitious statement of intent. Bring on the low 44’s, baby! Watch me tear up that indoor track again! Look out, you sorry doubters, London’s calling!
Last Tuesday night, Gillick rang in the New Year with a quiet proposal to his long-time girlfriend, Charlotte Wickham. Will you marry me? She said yes. For as long as he can remember, Gillick never felt more content, more in control of his own destiny.
That this happened in the same year he’d turned 30 could be deemed a natural shift in simple life priorities, and in certain ways it was: it was also a very conscious shift away from the athlete who had spent much of his recent life torn between constantly fluctuating extremes of euphoria and despair, struggling to find a balance between the two.
Because if 2013 had been another utterly frustrating year on the track, it was no worse than 2012, when Gillick found himself bottled up by so much of that frustration that he wondered if there would ever be a way out. The 2011 track season had brought no joy either, and eventually, something had to give, or rather go. Now more than ever, Gillick felt cripplingly separated from the athlete who ran 44.77 seconds for the 400 metres in the summer of the 2009, arguably one of the best Irish records on the track, and before that had built a steely competitive reputation on the back of his successive European Indoor titles in 2005 and 2007.
‘Lost the enjoyment’
“I suppose that was partly it, about beginning the New Year with at least one new decision, getting some new plan in order, just getting on with things,” Gillick told me yesterday. “Because I’d been injured for 18 months, almost two years, and that was very frustrating. And I have been unhappy, lost the enjoyment of what I’ve been doing.
“I still hope to get that back, and enjoy the sport like I once did. But I do have days when I think I’m on the other side of it, and then boom, it slaps you on the face again, like a wet fish. I’m just trying to stay on the positive side, by talking about it to as many people as I can.”
Indeed these are some of the thoughts Gillick will bring to a round table talk, “Over The Bar”, in Dublin next Tuesday, as part of First Fortnight, the organisation aimed at challenging mental health prejudice through the creative arts.
Gillick will be joined at the Twisted Pepper on Dublin’s Middle Abbey Street by Richard Sadlier, his former school-mate at St Benildus in Ballinteer, who has already spoken openly about the challenges he faced when his international soccer career was cut short by injury, with some equally important input from Liam Moggan, of Coaching Ireland, a man particularly sensitive to the demands of elite participation across all sports.
Complex and layered
Gillick is cautious about using the word “depression”, aware of how complex and layered that word often is. He is equally aware that when he moved to the US in 2010, training in Clermont, Florida, alongside the likes of Tyson Gay, his eventual breakdown with injury took him to a dark place that no athlete should unnecessarily find themselves.