by Lindsey Bell
During the week, as we near the anniversary of the 2012 London Olympic Games on 27 July, we’ll hear from members of the 2012 British Sailing Team who reflect on their own Games experiences, how they themselves were inspired by 2012, and on life and sailing since the London Olympic flame went out and the focus switched to Rio 2016.
Bryony Shaw (GBR) competing in the Women’s Windsurfer (RSX) event in The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.
Beijing bronze medallist Bryony Shaw was disappointed to finish seventh in the 2012 RS:X women’s windsurfing event, with her Games build-up affected by illness. In 2013 she’s hit back, and confidence is high after winning a first ever World Championship medal – silver – in March, and claiming podium finishes in all five regattas she’s competed in since:
A lot’s changed since the Games for me. In the build up to the Olympics I had a huge set back in my preparations.
For six months I couldn't shake a bug that came from polluted water in Cadiz, Spain, where I'd based my winter training. Staying positive and with the support of my coach Dom (Tidey) we got through it, giving myself the best chance of performing in my home town, Weymouth.
I could see all the smiling faces of the team around me, and it reminded me how I felt before Beijing. It was quite an odd feeling, like I was just a bit detached from it all. I was a strong part of the team yet it was a struggle to enjoy the experience.
Once it was over, although it was disappointing not to get a medal, the whole atmosphere and buzz around the Games really boosted me up again. So many of my friends were just so proud I’d taken part in a summer that meant so much to the whole country. I needed that.
A nice distraction was to see Ben Ainslie pull through and win gold at such a tough regatta for him. His win came from his own hard work and self-belief, but much of it was down to the team around him. Rather than an easy win, it showed how hard sailing is, and it was great to see him draw the public’s interest over to our sport.
After the Games I gave kitesurfing a try. I was very much part of the group voting to get windsurfing back into the Games, as kiting wasn’t the thing I had focused the last eight years of my life on. But I was told a lot of the skills were transferrable so I gave it a go and was enjoying it. When windsurfing was reinstated though I felt like it was back to business and I knew where I was going again. That was November.
With the World Championships in Brazil in early March we had to do such a quick turnaround.
My coach Dom (Tidey) and I have been a great duo since before Beijing, but I think our experience of London 2012 has made us even stronger. I came out of last year with a lot of questions to be answered, after we reviewed the event we asked how can I do better, and I think the lessons we’ve learned from that have not only improved our relationship but given us a louder voice in the team too. Dom and I had some negative experiences, which as the British Sailing Team, we can learn from.
I took all that passion and enthusiasm for windsurfing into the Worlds. It was such a strong fleet of girls, everyone turned up including the Olympic champion, silver medallist and a four-time World champion. It was like after all the knock-backs it had had windsurfing wanted to put on a really good show. I won silver and the whole event was so much fun compared to what I would have been doing a year before, training in cold, rainy Portland when I was ill. After the Worlds I felt like I’d come out the other side.
I’ve not been off the podium since, and most recently won gold at the Open Europeans. I do feel I’m sailing more freely and the pressures I felt last year aren’t there. I really enjoyed the Europeans. Even when I did have a stinker of a race I believed I could follow it with a really good result, and normally I did. It was a refreshing way to sail and Dom said he could see from the coach boat that I was backing myself on the racecourse.
Next we're heading out to Rio in early August to go and check out the next Olympic venue. The way the Worlds and Europeans came so early this year meant we can fit a three-week trip in, and Libby the British Sailing Team meteorologist is coming with us as well.
There’s a small RS:X event I’m planning on doing, which will give us access to a sailing club and hopefully we will get to race on the Rio 2016 course areas too. I’m looking to get a better idea of what kind of windsurfer I need to be to excel there. Do I need to be lightweight and super lean like for Beijing or is it a venue where knowledge and finesse will pay off? Will it be super shifty or consistent breezes?
The Santander 2014 Worlds Test Event then takes place in September, and the way I’ve been sailing so far this year I just want to keep going through the summer enjoying my sailing with the pressure off and progressing because of it.
British Sailing Team website