27th September 2018


Jo Butterfield was told in September 2017 that she would most likely miss the next 18 months of competition to rehab and recover after surgery on her shoulder. 11 months later, she was winning European silver in Berlin, ahead of schedule and back in the British team environment which she has thrived on in recent times.

It was a breakthrough moment for Butterfield who had persevered with her rehab, listening intently to the medical team as she overcame the shoulder injury which hampered her 2017 season. She admits that it wasn’t the easiest period of her athletics career, but one where she placed trust in those around her to find the best solutions.

“It’s a difficult one because you are suddenly in a position where you can’t do what you want to do. It is very frustrating, but you have to persevere with it. You almost feel like you aren’t going anywhere – going one step forward, two steps back.

“If you trust the process and trust those behind you then you realise they do know what they are talking about. I learned that if you keep doing the right things, you will get there. In the short term, some days you go into train and you think, ‘what am I doing here? Am I even achieving anything?’ But in the longer term, you realise that it did actually work.”

Although a work in process, she has managed the rehab patiently and it has reaped its rewards in the short-term and given her a confidence boost for her long-term aspirations.

“For me it was about acknowledging what I had been through and taking advantage of being back on the team and also back on the podium. I’ll take the positives from that and also realising that I am a year ahead of where I should be.”

The F51 club throw final in Berlin saw the Scottish-based athlete throw a best of 21.53m with world champion Zoia Ovsii of Ukraine exceeding that mark during her series, with a best of 24.31m. Although naturally Butterfield targeted the gold, she was content to take home the silver medal.

“It all played out as I expected it to. It was pretty much a bonus competition for me. I suppose just being able to compete was worth a medal in a sense.

“When I was going through my rehab, I wasn’t expecting to be throwing as far as I know I can. I was expecting the Ukrainian to throw well and match the distances she has in the past, so that wasn’t a surprise. I wouldn’t say I was going in wanting silver, I definitely wanted the gold, but I knew where I was at and where the competition was at, so it probably played out as expected.”

With a solid block of winter training on the horizon, the 39-year-old is targeting the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Doha in November, when she expects to be fully rehabbed and much stronger.

“The body is feeling good and feeling fixed, but it just needs to build up strength now and remain stable, which is the big thing. I just need a solid block of winter training to build everything back up again. I’m really pleased that the worlds are late next year because it gives me more time and really gives me double winter training which should be enough time to build my shoulder up.”

Away from competitive action, Jo has been playing a key role in the governance side of the sport, thriving on the Board of Directors at Scottish Athletics. She has been in the role since March 2016 and the duties she carries out are something she is very proud of.

“It is something that I enjoy, but also something I’d like to do more of. I like being involved in the sport. The sport has given me a lot, so I want to give back.

“On the board at Scottish Athletics, I’m still trying to find my feet still and trying to work out my role, but I’ve been getting more and more involved over the last few months. I’m here to represent para sport and the athletes; I’m here to make sure it doesn’t get forgotten about. It is my priority to make sure it is always on the radar. I have to applaud Scottish Athletics because they have put me on the board as they realise this is an area that lacks in all sports and I’m there to make sure I’m raising that awareness.”

“I felt out of my comfort zone at first, but everyone has been supportive and helpful. No one has looked at me as though my opinion doesn’t matter; it has always been an open environment and you may have said something that no one else has thought about.”

Whether competing in the field, or making her considered points in the board room, Jo Butterfield continues to be a leading figure in British athletics.