Hockey star Brendan Creed literally climbed his rehab mountain and returns to the international game with a new Olympic sport in his repertoire.
The statuesque defender, one of Great Britain’s finds of the Tokyo cycle, ruptured his ACL playing club hockey in October 2019 to put his Olympic dreams into jeopardy.
Creed threw mind and body at rehab to make the original date and found climbing, one of five sports to the Olympic programme for 2020, hit all the right spots.
“I was keen on bouldering before my injury and I found I could test my rehab work out on the walls,” said the 27-year-old.
“Tom Sorsby (team-mate) and I go together and one of our physios is a big fan. It’s brilliant for wrists and forearms, different parts of your hamstring and quads.
“The first few sessions were horrendous but it’s a really nice environment in there, it’s all about problem solving and other climbers help you out with the best paths to take.
“I’d love to go and watch it at the Olympics – bouldering is fascinating."
It’s almost exactly a year since the Solihull native was speechless and nearly physically sick with the shock of being told by doctors he’d face a battle to make a maiden Games.
GB goalkeeper and fellow serious injury sufferer Sabbie Heesh and team-mate Mark Gleghorne were the first on the scene to comfort Creed.
At best, it looked like a punishing rehab programme would give him five games to prove fitness for the Olympics before they were postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19.
All the Rehab work over the past 8 months, here’s hoping I can complete training session 1 tomorrow. I know I will be rusty, I know it will take some time to get back to where I was. I know it may not be an easy road but BLOODY HELL, I’M BUZZING! #ACL #BUZZING #MATTANDROYHAB pic.twitter.com/1fEdViTuT4— Brendan Creed (@CreedBrendan) June 29, 2020
“I just attacked it head on – all I needed was a sniff of making Tokyo and that was enough to put myself through hell,” said Creed.
“I think I’d have been there if it had gone ahead. But it would have been rushed.”
The 74-time international moved in with Olympic champion Maddie Hinch and Olympian David Ames near Bisham Abbey to continue training when lockdown hit.
Motivation seeped out of Creed when the Games were postponed, but he soon fought back the tide.
“It's been a big old rollercoaster, but I feel like I know and trust my body so much better now,” he said.
330 days later, 327 days of moaning and 150 days of being stuck exercising indoors, I am finally let loose 🥳💪🏼— Brendan Creed (@CreedBrendan) September 20, 2020
Cannot wait to get the season underway today with the seals again! Buzzing doesn’t quite cut it! 😆 #letsgo #Seals #BackHome pic.twitter.com/bjoGVbQv2Q
“I lost a lot of oomph when the Olympics were postponed, but the extra year just changes the outlook in terms of getting comfortable and being confident again.
“In terms of the longevity of my career, it's made a huge positive difference.”
Creed has been named in Danny Kerry’s squad as Great Britain return to Pro League action with two double-headers against world champions Belgium and Netherlands.
The defender and midfielder David Condon will both return from long-term injury against two teams drawn in GB’s group for Tokyo 2020.
“We’re in a good spot as a team ahead of these games,” said Creed.
“There’s been a lot of learning as a group in the last couple of months and we’ve expanded our game, which will help in the long run.
“You’ll see a better team at the Olympics in 2021 than you would have in 2020.
“These games are what you strive for – I just want to be playing and getting as many international games under my belt to prove I want to be back where I was.”
Mark Hager's women are also in action against the Dutch - in a rematch of that Rio Olympic final - and Belgians and give opportunities to a host of youngsters.
Fiona Crackles, Emily Dark and Sophie Hamilton could all make international debuts in a side captained by Laura Unsworth and featuring Olympic champions Susannah Townsend and Lily Owsley.