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The ten talents of Dean Macey

Jo Carter July 29, 2010
Dean Macey finished fourth in the Sydney and Athens Olympics © Getty Images
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Dean Macey may never have won an Olympic medal, but the British decathlete captured the hearts of the British public for his never-say-die attitude and his happy-go-lucky personality.

The 2006 Commonwealth champion retired in 2008 after failing to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, and as Britain's athletes take on the best Europe has to offer in Barcelona this week, we take a look back at the career of the man known as the Dean Machine.

Macey burst onto the scene in 1999 at the age of 21, winning silver at the World Championships in Seville behind three-time world champion Tomas Dvorak. After an injury ravaged season, Macey scraped through qualifying for the 2004 Athens Olympics, and produced an impressive performance to finish fourth for the second time.

"I remember Athens because it was the only time my wife came to watch," Macey recalls. "I didn't know she was going to be there, but I remember looking up at my family and she was there.

"I was so chuffed to come fourth. Everyone says it's the worst place to come but it's better than fifth.

"I was fifth going into the final event and one of my best mates Chiel Warners was fourth, but I knew full well I would beat him in the 1500m. He came up to me and said, 'You can have fourth place, I know it means more to you than it does to me'. So I said, 'You just make sure no-one takes fifth off of you'."

Despite travelling around the world, Macey's fondest memories stem from training sessions back in his native Essex.

"I have so many more fond memories of good training sessions in bad weather conditions than I do of big competitions," he recalls. "Athletes these days still train hard but when it is minus five degrees outside and they're training inside that is a bit wimpish.

"Winter training is supposed to be winter training. I remember one year it snowed and I took one of those ice scrapers and cleared a lane on the track for my 400m repetitions - it took me an hour and a half but it was worth it."

Macey will be remembered for his putting his body through hell. Despite enduring a catalogue of injuries throughout his career, he never failed to give 100 per cent.

There weren't many athletes who were able to push themselves to the point of destruction like I used to

"One of my greatest memories was qualifying for the 2004 Olympics at Hexham," he recalls. "I was still battling an injury and my coach and medical team set me very precise targets of how fast, how high, how long I could run, jump and throw.

"It added up to the B standard qualification and I took my one jump and throw and just did enough, no more, no less. There was only one man and his dog there watching but it didn't matter - to me it was just as important a performance as my gold medal in Melbourne."

After failing to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Macey announced his retirement in July 2008.

"It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life," Macey admits. "It was like losing a member of my family - I felt like I had a hole in my chest - I didn't know where I was going to go or what I was going to do.

"It's not far off two years since I retired, and the first six months were hell, and I felt lost for at least a year. I felt like I had nowhere to go - I missed training, I missed competing and I missed how good I felt after a really punishing session. There weren't many athletes who were able to push themselves to the point of destruction like I used to."

While most athletes progress into television commentary or coaching, Macey's post-retirement curriculum vitae has been slightly more colourful. Never one to shun a challenge, Macey's first venture after retirement was to take up bobsleighing. Along with former Olympic sprinter Jason Gardner, they attempted to qualify for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"I got a call out of the blue from the producer," he recalls. "She said, 'You are definitely going to crash; it will almost certainly hurt, but you will more than likely walk away from it'. I was sold.

'I've never been one to take myself seriously' © Getty Images
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"We were filming for ten days and it was incredible. I wish it had lasted forever - I had bobsleigh blues when I got home. I think I'm going to buy myself a motorbike now because I have become a bit of a speed freak.

"It was bar none the best sport I have ever done. I was totally out of my comfort zone. I love everything about it - and the camaraderie is second to none because everyone knows it is a dangerous sport."

As well as a short career as a bobsleigh athlete, Macey has added a few more strings to his bow. Add entrepreneur, fitness coach, amateur chef, angler and commentator to his increasingly-expanding repetoir.

He took part in the latest series of BBC Masterchef, went to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics as a commentator for Eurosport (on the bobsleigh, naturally) and finds time to run masterclasses for PE teachers, including tips on how not to hurdle. "I can hurdle really badly - looks quite spectacular". A keen fisher, he has presented his own programmes on the Discovery Channel and has his own range of angling equipment.

And as for a dream return to the Olympic Stadium in London?

"I considered it," Macey admitted." I actually did six weeks training to see whether I still had the performance in me to make it to the London Games. But I got hurt and it made me realise why I retired - I lost the belief that I could be injury free.

"Hand on heart I would definitely make the start line, but I would just be making up the numbers, and I would never do that."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk