After the Goldrush
London 2012 has been the best thing to happen to the United Kingdom since we won the war. I’ve had two of the greatest weeks of my life, and I wasn’t even part of Team GB!
Millions of spectators have witnessed the thrill of elite level sport, and GB’s successes in particular, in a live arena and sometimes in sports they’ve never heard of before. Even my friends back home who haven’t so much as sniffed a pair of trainers since they left school have been glued to the TV and have shed tears for our Gold Medallists. After all we have seen in the past fortnight, if there’s anyone in Britain who does not want to go out and get fit, set themselves a challenge, achieve more in sport or try a new one, then they are wastes of space and oxygen.
But London 2012 wasn’t solely about the sport, it was also about the human sprit. I can’t speak for London, but all around the Eton Dorney area everyone was on top form, strangers greeting, helping and chatting to each other as if it were a Dickensian Christmas morning. The work of the army on security was exemplary. And the volunteers were not just Jo Bloggs who fancied a free ticket to the Olympics, they were lovely, smart, hard-working, community-minded people who brightened up our day despite starting work at 5am every morning! A special “Hi” to the girls on patrol at the entrance to the commentary stand at Dorney Lake.
So what now?
We need more sport on TV – and I’m not talking about football – we need to keep hearing about our World Champions and European Champions and we need to keep seeing them doing what they do best. Why are there so many repeats and boring reality shows on mainstream telly when we could be watching the Rowing World Championships or the Sailing World Cup? It’s time young women turned away from Katie Price and the girls from The Only Way is Essex for good and instead looked to Nicola Adams, Rebecca Adlington, Laura Trott, Katherine Grainger, Helen Glover…I’ve got tears in my eyes just writing these names.
Shall I get a little bit less emotional and a little more political? Why not. There was a time when I argued that there was no way the government could afford to sustain the funding of elite sport. After all, if pensioners have to face austerity then so should us sportsmen. But having seen the infectious effect of success and happiness for other people’s achievements ripple across the nation, I honestly believe they can’t afford not to. The decision to continue national investment in sport will boost physical and mental health, crime reduction, the community, employment and education. It will be the foundation of our future generations.
Thanks to London 2012, British people want to get fit, we want to smile at other people’s achievements and use them as motivation to strive for our own. We want to support each other and we want to be our best, we want to be healthy and we want our children to have the opportunity to take part in sport and to be their best too. I’m so sad it’s over but I’m so glad it’s happened. Let’s not allow all that hard work be for the sake of two great weeks, let’s make it count for the future of the United Kingdom and the future of sport.
London 2012….Great Britain Forever!!
A Day at the Races
Ascot, Berkshire; Thursday 21st and Saturday 23rd June 2012
Last week I was extremely lucky to be asked along to Ladies' Day by BBC Radio Berkshire. Once the initial challenges of wearing a dress, finding a hat, doing my own make-up and walking in high-heels had been met, it was an action-packed day with some particularly special highlights:
- Standing literally 10ft away from Her Majesty The Queen.
- Watching the racing from the BBC Berkshire studio, situated on the 7th tier of the Grandstand (higher than The Queen!) and directly opposite the finish line.
- Interviewing singer Katherine Jenkins and former Wimbledon Champion Virginia Wade.
- Watching the racing from the Royal Enclosure.
- Watching Frankie Dettori win the Ascot Gold Cup and seeing his flying dismount close-up.
- Being allowed in the Parade Ring to see all the horses and watch the trophy presentations.
- Being involved in a multi-faceted live Outside Broadcast, seeing how it all works and watching the professionals do their thing.
The Calm After the Storm
Dorset; Sunday 17th June 2012 (actually)
The storm of hype and excitement on Twitter and Facebook last week about the WindGuru forecast for this weekend's race was almost as big as the impending storm itself. But unfortunately, both of them were all for nothing as, with winds gusting at 59kmh and the swell expected to reach 3.7m on Saturday, the race was postponed till the next day. A disappointing but sensible decision.
The Wind Gods were obviously pretty hung-over after a wild all-day session on Saturday. And the prospect of starting in Portland Harbour and having to race 2 miles on the flat before reaching the open ocean was equally as uninspiring. I could pretty much see in my crystal ball how this race was going to pan out...
...but I was totally wrong. The paddle out of the harbour was actually really fun, with some playful little runners and a lovely big wash to sit on just behind the main pack. I was just starting to make the most of the ripples, gaining on some of the men, and getting excited about catching a couple of them once we got into some proper swell, when we came out of the harbour to find ..... f l a t. But it did pick up gradually as we got out of the shelter of Portland and there were some quite fun waves to play with as we got closer to the finish.
I came 10th overall, first woman, and was surprised to find I'd just pipped my "benchmark" Colin "Biggles" Smith, something I haven't managed to do for two or three years. Flatwater kayaker Ben Farrell won the men's race for the second week running, this time pipping Mark "The Biggest Man in Lifesaving" Ressel by just one second. The surfski boys will be seeking retribution in the swells of North Devon in two weeks time.
The afternoon was rounded off with a BBQ at The Cromwell House Hotel, which I'm sure was delicious but I was too busy feeling sea-sick and sorry for myself - that familiar post-race hell - to taste anything.
Thanks so much to Ian Robinson from Branksome Chine SLSC for putting on a great race. Can't wait for the Icon Classic in two weeks, when Chloe Bunnett, Tarryn Brown and I will all be battling it out for the first time this year.
For full results from the race check out www.wellsimple.com.
Carbis Bay, Cornwall; Saturday 9th June 2012
Woop woop!! The British Ocean Racing season has begun! And what a way to kick-start the national series with the fun-packed showcase of paddlesport that is Paddlefest. I've never been able to attend the race before as I'm normally roped in to some sort of flat-water nonsense, but my non-inclusion in the Olympic team actually came with the bonus of allowing me to get stuck in to surfski racing a bit sooner than usual.
The best thing about Paddlefest is its accessibility. Carbis Bay is pretty sheltered so, although some of the hardened competitors were probably disappointed that there weren't any monster swells, paddlers of all levels were able to take part. The lap-style course was ideal for spectators and it also meant there were a couple of shorter race options for younger surf-skiers, outriggers and SUPs.
Personally, my weekend got off to a false start when, puffed up with the pride of being organised and departing Windsor in a tardy fashion, we made it one junction down the M4 before having to abort the mission. 50mph winds and a 10kg, 22ft ocean ski on the roof do not make the best travel buddies, so we had to de-tour back to the farm to drop the ski off again. I was once again in familiar territory - the day before a big race with no craft. (Although this time it wasn't my fault.)
But things always work out OK in the end, don't they? and I managed to scramble a Gaisford Bladerunner Xi* at the last minute. I was a bit worried that paddling a Spec ski would be a disadvantage, especially when St Ives paddler Tarryn Brown dusted me off the start, but I actually think the boat was better suited to the cross-wind/headwind/chop and I managed to claw it back to take the win. Pretty gutted to be beaten by my hubby and his mate Guy, who were paddling a double. Although knowing Guy, he's probably been "secret training" all year!
But it didn't all end there. For those who weren't exhausted enough after a 14km race, there was a 2km double ski eliminator race (which I dipped out of in favour of lunch) followed by an OC-4 (four-man hawaiian outrigger canoe) tournament. This was a great opportunity for paddlers to have a go at a new discipline, not that our inexperience meant the racing was any less competitive! I even had a go on an SUP for good measure!
Thanks to Ocean Sports UK for a wicked event, and well done to all the competitors, especially GB flatwater paddler Ben Farrell who won the Open title, some would say proving his versatility, others would say "Wait till the Icon Classic, when it'll get MASSIVE!!"
*For the non-ski-savvy, this is the type of ski we normally paddle for short-distance, surf lifesaving races, and is shorter, heavier, more stable and, under most circumstances, generally thought to be slower than an ocean ski)
Just keep swimming...
Hampton Open-Air Pool, Surrey; Tuesday 29th May 2012