Hockey star racing to be fit for bike ride
AN ANKLE injury could put paid to hockey star Mark Knowles' plans to take part in the Steve Waugh Foundation's charity ride at the end of the month.
The former Kookaburras captain was invited by the Australian cricket legend to take part in The Captain's Ride, a gruelling six-day, 800km ride through the Victorian Alps to raise money for sufferers of rare diseases.
Knowles had thrown himself into a demanding training schedule in preparation for the ride before disaster struck last week.
He was injured playing indoor soccer and is now sporting a moon boot with the ride less than four weeks away.
"I collided with an opposition player and my ankle was snapped straight down,” Knowles said.
"I've done the ligaments inside and outside and the cartilage in the joint; I've done pretty much everything short of breaking it.
"I've done a few ankles in my time and this one's as bad as I've had.”
But Knowles is doing everything in his power to get to the starting line on October 29.
"The doc reckons no but I'm giving myself a chance, but maybe that's the athlete mentality in me,” he said.
"I'm going to try to get out of the boot a bit earlier and that will give me about three weeks before the ride.
"The severe bone bruising is the big issue because there's no time limit on how quickly that heals.
"I've got an icing machine at home, I'm on anti-inflammatories and painkillers, and I'm slowly trying to get as much movement in it as I can.
"As soon as I feel like I'm ready I'll be back on.”
Knowles said Waugh invited him on the ride a month after the Commonwealth Games in April.
"Steve was our team liaison officer at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. I've chatted to him a few times since, and he rang me about the ride,” Knowles said.
"As soon as he asked I said yes. I hadn't asked my wife or done any planning for it but I said yes straightaway and that was the start of it.
"I really wanted to challenge myself in something new.”
Knowles is no stranger to cycling having done plenty of it as part of his fitness regime in the latter stages of his elite hockey career.
"The biggest thing with this ride is not the riding itself, it's the climbing. It's big distances, heavy peaks, repeat efforts,” he said.
"It's not just sitting on a bike and riding because I used to do that anyway. I'd ride for 40km down to Wynnum but now I'm going 30km in the hills, it takes twice as long and it's four times as hard even though it's a shorter distance.
"I was going as hard as I could at it. It was pretty full-on but I was really enjoying it.”
Knowles is clearly content after calling time on his celebrated international hockey career in April.
He has returned to club hockey with Easts in Brisbane and a fortnight ago helped guide them to their second consecutive Division 1 title.
"It was a nice way to end a very, very good hockey year for me,” he said.
"I've put a lot of time and effort and love into playing club hockey after missing it for quite a while so it was nice to finish like that.”
Knowles was selected in the Queensland Blades squad for the National Hockey League but chose not to play.
"I just lost a bit of that spark to train at a really high level,” he said.
"I love the training in the club scene but I had been looking forward to the season finishing and having my first off-season since 2000 in Rocky.
"It's been 18 years without an off-season and if I played with the Blades I would have finished the grand final on Saturday and then been into five-days-a-week training with them for the last month.
"I just didn't have enough in me to want to do that again.”
Knowles is relishing his role as personal development adviser at the Queensland Academy of Sport and is also being kept busy with public speaking engagements and guest appearances.
"I'm loving my job and working in a completely different field,” he said.
"I'm still working with elite athletes but away from hockey a little bit which is something I think I needed after high-performance hockey.
"I'm being kept busy with appearances and talks. That's an area that provides a financial support for my family but sharing my story is something I'm also really interested in doing.
"I do have a unique story: growing up in the country, leading a national team, being a flag-bearer at the Commonwealth Games, having a family and playing professionally in India and the Netherlands.
"I'm not missing anything at all about the elite hockey lifestyle. I'm so happy and I've had such a great year this year.
"I've made some pretty amazing connections, been to some pretty cool places and been able to expand my own brand.
"I have no regrets at all, I feel awesome about things and I could not be happier with how things have panned out and where I'm at with my family, my career and everything else.”
Mark Knowles has been nominated for The Don, one of Australia's most prestigious sporting awards. The award, named after Sir Donald Bradman, recognises the sporting achievement of the year which has inspired the people of Australia. Knowles is up against a star-studded field of nominees which includes wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley, footballer Sam Kerr, cricketer Ellyse Perry and Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo. The winner will be announced at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame 34th Induction and Awards gala dinner on Thursday.