RAFIK Tahraoui is still on track to emulate his grandfather by competing in an Olympic Games in London.
Along with Warrington Wolves handball team coach Scott Harrington, Tahraoui is currently on an Olympics preparation camp in Serbia with a 22-man Team GB squad that will be whittled down to 14 for London 2012.
It is a tense time for the 22-year-old from Old Hall, who is battling through injury.
His grandfather Charles Brand captained the GB water polo team at the 1948 Games in London and again in Helsinki four years later, and this is D-day time on the road to becoming the second Olympian in his family.
It is a journey that has remarkably included switching sports from water polo as well as overcoming major surgery.
“It’s a very stressful and nerve racking situation being on this camp because the last six years of my life have been focused on training towards the Olympic Games and to not make it there in the end would be heartbreaking,” said Tahraoui, whose three weeks in Serbia will be followed by a 2014 European Handball Championships qualification tournament in Italy and then further training in Turkey if he continues to make the cut at various stages.
“It’s a situation that even though you’re here with a team, it makes you feel isolated and lonely because you’re really here for yourself, trying to take the place of the person next to you.”
Now, at the back end of two weeks’ high altitude conditioning on the ski mountain of Kopaonik, he is determined that an unspecified ‘serious’ injury will not wreck his Olympic dream.
“It is a risk, but a risk worth taking because to compete in the Olympic Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Tahraoui, who had been advised against tackling the camp.
Such determination was epitomised by his rise to international level, firstly in water polo, despite lung surgery six years ago.
He admits he was concerned about the high altitude work in Serbia, especially running long ascents and sprint sessions at the highest points reached.
“It’s all necessary if we want to be in the best shape possible,” he said.
“Such intense training at high altitude was a worry for me. I had part of my left lung removed due to it collapsing twice, something that I was told would prevent me from ever competing at a high level again.
“I proved that wrong years ago, but for this camp I’ve had to train especially hard.
“It’s a great feeling to be up here and be one of the top conditioned players in the team. It shows my hard work has paid off.”