Imagine being told you’ll never be able to do the thing you love doing ever again, the one thing you’ve put your life and soul into striving to be the best at.
What would you do? Sink or swim?
Sophie Cook doesn’t have to imagine that scenario, because it happened. A car accident in March 2017 threatened to ruin a promising pole-vaulting career almost before it had begun, with a herniated disc in her lower spine putting her out of action for over a year.
With the strain on the back that the pole can induce, Cook was advised to turn her attentions to a running event instead.
But that advice fell on deaf ears and after a treacherous 14 months of recovery, she finally made her comeback on the scene in 2018, a moment she will never forget.
“I think I cried for about a week when I finally got the GB vest in 2018 – happy tears,” the 25-year-old said, after completing a miraculous turnaround by winning the British Indoor Championship title in Glasgow last month.
“That vest meant everything, it was probably on a par with how I felt winning in Glasgow, emotion-wise. To get that phone call was special and it proved that everything was worth it.
“Before the accident I felt like we were building gradually to a good level. I felt really good at that time and then the accident was just one of those things that you can’t avoid happening.
“It happened and it messed up my season and my back – clearly – but I honestly believe everything happens for a reason and I’m in a much better place now because we had to work so hard to get back from it.
“It was an emotional time but, in a way, I’m glad it happened because I learnt a lot and have come through a lot from the experience. It wasn’t a nice experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody but it’s working out now.”
Cook’s comeback was capped off by that victory in Glasgow, in which she vaulted a personal best 4.50m on the way to the gold medal, which saw yet another milestone achieved on her road to recovery.
Since her return she has been training under Scott Simpson and alongside British record-holder Holly Bradshaw, as she sets her sights on a competitive season ahead.
The Tokyo Olympics may come a bit too soon for the Loughborough-based athlete but after overcoming the odds to get this far, it would take a brave person to bet against her sneaking a seat on the plane to Japan later this year.
“I’ve never trained with a group so supportive in my life, a lot of success that anybody gets in that group is thanks to the work of everyone so I’m extremely thankful that I’m part of that set-up now,” Cook added.
“I feel like I’m in a really good place and things are going really well. I’ve learnt so much, built on so many things that I’ve been needing to build on, and prioritised my time on things like my run-up which has made a huge difference.
“I’m excited to keep doing that and seeing where it goes. Europeans is definitely the next goal. It’s the most realistic goal, of course everyone wants to say they’re aiming for an Olympic Games but realistically this one will be a push.
“Obviously I’m going to push as hard as I can to get there, I want to jump as high as I can this year and that’s our priority.”