Understanding persistence with Luke Strong

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If you have followed Luke Strong’s career over the years you can’t help realising that his last name is quite well fitting. Nearly at the end of his second full Olympic cycle, Luke has resumed training just a few days ago after battling a long standing foot injury that started nagging him at the World Championships last year. “They told me I should try talking to a psychologist to see if that could help me manage my pain better. But once they discovered the stress fracture they did apologise”. The injury was tough to diagnose as the stress fracture on his right foot had occurred in an unusual place and couldn’t be picked up by standard MRIs. Having already broken his left leg twice you wouldn’t expect Luke not to know how to handle himself through pain. His nastiest injury occurred in 2009, he had barely broken into the trampolines World and was about to go to the World Age Group Competitions. “Nothing special happened, I just landed and my leg broke. At first they thought it was a dislocated knee but then my leg swelled immensely, the bone had exploded into 15 pieces and I had developed compartment syndrome. They took me to surgery to fit a device to measure the swelling, and had to call my mum to ask permission to operate because I was 10 minutes away from losing my leg. She really freaked out about it. Now they(his parents) are used to it.” Coming back from that injury was a long process, he spent a month in the hospital, which he barely remembers but he does recall he didn’t want to eat because he didn’t want to get fat… or use the bedpan. At the time there was a trampolines forum online that was largely used by the UK community and Luke read some demeaning comments about himself there, this ended up prompting him to come back even more, to prove himself. It was worthwhile, in 2014 he became the first British man to medal at a big championship in individual trampolines (bronze at the European Championships in Guimarães, Portugal). Two weeks later he  fractured his left leg again and was out of competition for 14 months. 

Luke on the podium with his bronze medal at European Championships 2014 in Guimarães

Luke on the podium with his bronze medal at European Championships 2014 in Guimarães

Being in an Olympic sport comes with it’s benefits and it’s pressures, but it’s also the main reason behind returning to training after these long recovery processes, the Olympic goal is always there lurking. Being on the national team grants the gymnasts financial support and full access to the Lilleshall technical team of doctors and physiotherapists, but it adds extra pressure to achieve so that these benefits don’t disappear. It also becomes a job. Luke remarked that in Double Mini Trampoline the guys quit after one or two big championships since there’s no motivation to do more. He nearly quit himself after missing the Olympic team for the second time in 2016. “I was away for four months, my heart wasn’t in it anymore, I was feeling sore all the time. That’s when my passion for travelling began, that’s what I did then, I went travelling.” However Luke realised that looking back at his career he wasn’t happy with it, he didn’t want to look back ten years down the road and regret not having continued. So he returned to training, and since then he has won British Championships twice, made his first World Championships finals, and won a silver medal at the World Championships in 2017 and a gold at World Cup in Valladolid also in 2017 in syncronised trampolines with partner Nathan Bailey.

He hopes to make it to the Olympic Games. He also hopes to join Cirque du Soleil someday “I don’t see myself working in an office.” And he adds “In gymnastics you work very hard and it can be stressful, but you also travel the world and meet a lot of different people”. Born and raised in Liverpool he says it’s one of the nicest places in the UK (it is indeed nice), and he lights up telling me the names of all the beaches just across from where we were seating. Good luck Luke!

Isabel Silva