Towards Rio 2016
My passion for the sport and the support of the British Sailing Team are huge driving forces, that are providing undeterred momentum to achieve success in Rio 2016. My super strengths are my focus and effort, as well as my adaptability, which will be a key factor towards competing in a variable and tactical venue such as Rio. My journey will be full of exciting challenges and a huge test of my ability as an athlete . . .
Follow my campaign here as I strive for Gold!
My Olympic Dream
From a young age I was sporty and competitive. I did ballet from the age of four and at school in Oxford had a place on the football, netball & athletic teams. I showed a clear love for windsurfing when my family and I experienced it on our summer holidays together. Once we invested in getting some kit of our own this gave me the freedom to sail even during term time at our local reservoir and we soon got integrated into the local scene. The support of the windsurfing club at Farmoor reservoir was amazing, I was soon turned on to the idea of racing and the Olympic Dream!
It wasn’t long until I was racing alongside the best windsurfers in the country. I was excited by the prospect of qualifying for the team to go to their training camps and receive coaching support, so I made it my goal to attend all the regattas to be in with a chance of selection. Age 15 I had made the Aloha National Team and by age 16 I achieved my first National title for my age group. I had a determined attitude for a young girl, but I was having a lot of fun along the way and I loved making so many new friends, especially when we went abroad to experience international events.
From age 15 to 18 I was juggling my studying and competition schedule, which was a lot to deal with but it gave me a great lifestyle balance. Then after A-Levels I took two years out to follow the world tour as a full time professional athlete.
I had funding support from UK Sport & the National Lottery as well as coaching & physiology advice. I took part in all the Olympic Classes Regattas and British Sailing Team training camps alongside Britain’s top sailors. This gave me a huge boost up to international level and age 19 I was knocking on the top 10 in the world.
When I began my architecture course at Cardiff University I was thrown back into the situation of juggling the sport & studying again, but this time the level of both was so much more intense. It was clear that I had to make a choice… Olympic Dream or university degree? It was a tough choice but I had such good support and advice that it made the choice easier… I was going to campaign full time towards the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
In 2007 my Olympic Dreams came true! It was a Golden year for me… I had worked so hard on becoming a light wind specialist for Qingdao, and after a disappointing world championships where I was dealing with injury, I was determined that the Pre-Olympics would be my event. The week went almost faultlessly and I came away not only with a Gold Medal, but also with my selection for the team to go to the Olympics. I was on cloud nine!
Olympic Highs and Lows
Winning Gold at the Olympic Test Event was certainly a career high for me age 23. I was selected for the Olympic Team and I had generous sponsorship offers, which not only helped with the financial strains of the campaign but also made me feel like a sports star in the making.
Then when I won my Olympic Bronze Medal in 2008 my whole life changed… I had to professionally mature, learn the value of my image, in the same way a business woman would learn her brand. I had lots of fun attending functions & photoshoots, writing columns in women’s lifestyle magazines, negotiating contract terms & being a role model for many young aspiring windsurfers. I was living the Olympic Dream!
Then it all became about London 2012, the “Home Games”! The Sailing Team had such a buzz around it as we had established ourselves as the team to beat, but we did a great job at sticking to our daily training and our on water priorities. My game had to adapt and change in order to suit the venue in Weymouth. It was likely to be much windier than Qingdao, so I had to be fast as well as fit. It was a tough road that involved a lot of time on the water integrating new techniques, testing equipment, making it go fast. My coach and I did a lot of hours together and we were very determined.
Things were really on track… Despite a set back with a tummy upset in early 2010 from polluted water, i managed to win Gold at the World Cup in France and finish fourth at the Worlds that year. In 2011 I won the Bronze Medal at the Olympic Test Event in Weymouth and in early 2012 I got fourth at the Worlds in Cadiz, which was super windy, I great sign that I had adapted my skills for breeze.
However, in March 2012 I unfortunately ingested a super bug (staphylococcus) from the polluted water in Cadiz that gave me a recurring chest infection from which I didn’t really regain my strength. I had to keep resting from training, which was frustrating for me and my coach as we knew how much work still had to be done to have that Gold Medal chance in the summer. So despite every effort these Games became my Olympic low, cheering on my team mates as they received their medals, while i sat in a disappointing seventh.
For the London Olympics my body was not in its best health or physical shape and also my mind was not in the right place to create that winning environment. Now, on my Road to Rio, i place a high priority not only on fitness, but also health, wellbeing & positive mindset. With all these lessons learned and experiences of highs and lows I feel ready and prepared for what I am sure will be the toughest yet most exciting Olympics to win.