Seb Rodger has returned to the home comforts of Sussex and his old coach as he bids to rekindle the 400m hurdles form which saw him reach the 2013 World Athletics Championships.
After two years in Bath and missing out on this year’s global event, the 24-year-old believes going back to the routine which served him well for eight years will help him reach the Olympics in Rio next year.
The Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier left Sussex at the end of the 2013 season for Bath, one of the preferred centres of British Athletics.
But this season he has suffered a series of injuries which have hampered his progress and believes issues including adjusting his stride pattern while in Bath was partly to blame for his lack of progress, having set a personal best of 49.19 seconds when winning a silver medal at the European U23s Championships in Finland in 2013.
“I’ve got really close friends I train with down here and I wanted to take it back to my roots,” said Rodger, who has returned to Eastbourne to train with his old coach Steve King.
“I’m back with Steve King who trained me from the age of 14 to 22 and got me to the World Championships in 2013, so he obviously knows me and what works for me.
“We sat down over the summer and I said I was quite keen to come back. We’ve been back training together and it’s going very well – I’m excited.”
Rodger, who now splits training between Withdean Arena and Broadbridge Heath in Horsham, said it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong in Bath.
“It’s a tricky one. It’s a great place,” he said. “Everything was on tap - physios, doctors, and the training facilities.
“It was a strange situation as everything was geared to work in Bath, but for whatever reason it hasn’t come together how I wanted it to.
“Maybe the environment wasn’t what I needed. Maybe it was one of those things where you can have too much of a good thing.
“I was being warmed up on a physio’s bed every day and I’d never had that before. Maybe I came to rely on it.
“I had to get up and do things at certain times, like having an hour’s conversation about everything in Bath, but there’s no point having the same conversations several times.
“At the time I left Sussex, I felt I had outgrown the area and I needed training partners. But a lot of the time I was training one on one with people I would be ultimately competing against, and when you do that you turn it into a competition and that’s a dangerous game.”
He says that his coach in Bath, Jamie Hillier, remains a good friend and that he might enjoy small periods of time at a high performance centre, but has decided that he does not want to be there permanently.
He also felt that he didn’t need to change his stride pattern, which had served him well. “It felt like this year I went back to where I was in 2012 where everything was new and I was experimenting,” said Rodger, who had switched event from decathlon towards the middle of the previous year.
Changing to a 13 step stride pattern, from 14, for the start of the race did not work, he felt.
That, combined with injuries, meant he did not make the progress he felt he should have done. “I’m one of the quickest in the world over the home straight, but will that be the case if I have done the first part of the race differently? I was being turned into an athlete I wasn’t,” he said.
Had he been able to match his personal best, Rodger believe he could have been competitive in Beijing this year.
He said: “I want to be at the Olympics next year and not in the same situation, feeling frustrated because I have worked hard but suffered injuries and not enjoyed the sport. This is my job and I want to enjoy it.
“I had a car crash at the wrong time last year, but one of the big factors is I’ve been injured more in the last couple of years than when I was down south.
“The guy I worked with down here, Greg Funnell in Hailsham, is the best physio I have every come across. He keeps my body in top shape.
“I damaged by Achilles and had to struggle on for the rest of the year. Not qualifying for the World Championships in Beijing was hugely disappointing and I’ve not fulfilled my potential.
“I’m not prepared to go into an Olympic year being unsure about my training. I had a hamstring injury recently and had time to reflect and work out what I wanted.
“I want to be at the Olympics next year in Rio and not in the same situation as I was this year.”