by Lindsey Bell
During the week, as we near the anniversary of the 2012 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. Helenburgh’s Luke Patience sailed the ‘regatta of my life’ to claim an exuberant silver medal with Stuart Bithell in the 470 class at their first Olympic Games.
Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell (GBR) roll tack on the third leg of the 470 Mens Medal race
Since London, the friends have parted ways with Bithell moving into the 49er class, and Patience having now teamed up with two-time Olympic silver medallist Joe Glanfield in their quest for Rio gold: It’s funny, it feels like time has flown by but then when I think back over all the things that have happened individually since the Olympics it all actually seems like a long time ago.
I guess because I’m now involved in a new campaign my mind has turned towards Rio as opposed to the four-month period I had off where it was all about the Olympics and what had just happened. It’s surreal looking back. I watched the BBC DVDs that we got sent about it all. I’ve watched our race a couple of times before, feeling a bit nostalgic.
It totally brings back goosebumps when I think about the whole Olympic experience, and ultimately I’m a sucker for the Olympics! It’s brought me goosebumps all my life when I was never even there. I feel like I’ve grown up a lot since the Games – I feel like I went into the Olympics a certain guy and came out a completely different guy just after one week. It’s changed me for the better, and certainly for the better in my sport.
Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell (GBR) set off a flare at the conclusion of the Mens 470 Medal Race
I have mixed emotions thinking back. For the most part and the largest part I’m so proud. Me and Stuart just killed the Olympic regatta really – a personal best, a career best even, and that’s all you can ask of yourself. I look back and all the amazing things that came of it and I think ‘wow’. We just couldn’t have asked more of ourselves, but yet it just wasn’t quite enough – and that’s the bit that stings. It’s something that drives me every day, knowing that we didn’t win and that’s why we all do it – that’s why every elite sportsman does what they do. That small bit of negativity, if that’s what you can call it, I’ve turned into drive and inspiration to push even harder.
I think probably our biggest strengths of Joe and I as a team is that combined experience together and that combination of the older head and the younger head. The colours of the three medals we’ve collectively got means we’re dangerous! I’m really excited by that. Joe’s come out of retirement because he feels he’s got unfinished business and I do too, even though I’m more at the start of my career. My vocab doesn’t compliment how much I think about winning gold and how much I live and breathe it – it’s 24/7, it’s 365, it’s what it’s all about day and night and we have so much drive and energy behind us right now.
I went to Rio for a fleeting visit at the end of last year. It’s a crazy city, it’s busy, there’s hustle and bustle, there’s manic traffic, amazing scenery, and buildings everywhere. It’s noisy, there are parties and the beach and just so much to take in at once. It’s going to be a tricky venue for us sport-wise. It is light winds, it is tidal, the high land everywhere is going to make it tricky and it’s going to be a real challenge – in a good way. We’ll see what to expect, but my initial impressions are it will be a challenge in terms of making it feel like home and being comfortable in the race area because of how changeable it can be. That’s a bit of a different side to the coin than Weymouth which very much was home.
It’s been a great year for Joe and I so far. To stand on the podium in every regatta bar one, I don’t think we could have expected that. We actually came in with no expectations. It was about getting the foundations of our new partnership established and getting the momentum going, getting that snowball building in size and pace. It’s a positive place to be in, and more importantly right now than standing on podiums is that I think we understand where we are in the fleet, and what the things are that we need to do better to be challenging for the win at every regatta. That’s the most important bit and it’s great to have that vision early on.
20120804 Copyright onEdition 2012© Free for editorial use image, please credit: onEdition Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell (GBR) competing today, 04.08.12, in the Men's Two Person Dinghy (470) event in The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition runs from 29 July to 12 August and brings together 380 of the world's best sailors to race on Weymouth Bay. Sailing made its Olympic debut in 1900 and has appeared at every Olympic Games since 1908. In 2012
The vibe still around the Olympics is amazing. To have that amount of people supporting us throughout the Games was not even on our radar. For us personally, for what we felt during the Olympics it will never be like that again. The legacy from the Olympics has been immense. You have your cynics in the world, particularly in Britain, but from what I’ve seen in my time since the Olympics has been thousands of over-excited kids – as I would be, and as I am, myself! Yes, we’ve got the buildings and the facilities and that’s great. Without those, kids couldn’t access sport, but there’s no point having all the buildings if people just don’t know about it or have the drive to want to go and take part in sport.
I’ve felt a positive shift in the British public that sport is a fantastic thing. Andy’s just won Wimbledon, the Lions have just won, we have Glasgow 2014 coming up on our doorstep. The momentum is relentless and I’m sure the Olympics helped that. I’ve just done another sports day at a school last week, and it was just so humbling to see all the little kids so excited – when they see your medal they’re just out-of-control excited. It’s a special thing to be able to share that with so many people.
My personal Games moment came at the Opening Ceremony – we were lucky enough to actually get to go to London. We finally got to the stadium and were walking in a line – me, Stuart, Hannah and Saskia. It was that moment stood in the tunnel when the next team being announced was Team GB, and then 80,000 people in the stands knew we were coming. They started banging their feet in the stands where they were sat and the place was shaking, everyone was chanting. I remember looking at Stuart and Hannah and seeing their faces and the expressions they had knowing that I would’ve looked the same. The three of us all grew up together and I think all our years racing with each other and against each other came to that moment.
For me that moment is so vivid. Then we were released and that moment we walked out into the stadium, it defined everything that the Olympics meant to me and at that moment, win or lose, I was thinking ‘I’m here and I’ve got it right – what an opportunity to be my best and try and win an Olympic gold medal’.
Whatever I go on to do, I think that moment will be the most vivid, impactful moment of my entire sporting life.
British Sailing Team