It’s been two crazy weeks since the end of the Paralympics and I have got a back bedroom full of kit bags that are still untouched and a massive stack of paper work and emails to wade through. My feet just haven’t touched the ground long enough to do anything yet!
I always knew a home Games was going to be special but I don’t think anyone had any idea just how special and overwhelming they would end up being and that is all down to the public. The way the whole country embraced the Olympics and how that passion and enthusiasm rolled onto the Paras was awe-inspiring. I’m just so proud to have been part of it all – I don’t want to take the tracksuit off!
I just know for British athletes no other Games will be quite like we had this year. Rio will undoubtedly be great but it doesn’t get any better than this. Everyone I have spoken to wants to make the absolute most of every last moment.
The moment it really hit home to me I was a gold medallist was when the sailing team went up to London a couple of days after the end of the sailing event in Weymouth and Portland.
The day I won I was like the Ice Queen! There was no breeze on the last day of the regatta so we did a lot of sitting around, trying to stay relaxed but focussed in the event that we would get to go out sailing and race the final race.
Our team psychologist Ben had done such a good job on getting me thinking ‘It’s just another regatta, it’s just another regatta’ that when the flags went up in the middle of the afternoon to say that racing had been abandoned for the day, and the event was over, it was a bit like ‘Oh so that’s it?’ Everyone else around me, and all my friends and family, were so emotional but although I was ecstatic I initially felt a bit disappointed I hadn’t been able to get out racing on the last day and enjoy the moment of winning gold on the water.
The next 24 hours were a whirlwind of interviews and photoshoots in Weymouth plus we had to pack up the boat and move out of the team accommodation all on the back of about two hours’ sleep and a big party on the Thursday night!
But on the Saturday me and the Team Volvo SKUD guys Niki Birrell and Alexandra Rickham (Olympic bronze medallists) and the Sonar guys Jon Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas, with our team physiologist David, caught the trainfrom Weymouth to London to join the rest of the Paralympics GB athletes. That was when the scale of what we had done hit home.
We had been chatting to the guard on the platform and he had asked who we were and what we had done so when we got on the train there was an announcement came over the tannoy that there were some Paralympic medallists on board and perhaps we would be happy to walk through the carriages and give people the chance to see our medals if they would like. Me and Niki Birrell, who won SKUD class bronze, thought ‘Yep not a problem it will be 15 minutes just having a couple of photos and chatting to a few people.’
Two hours later and we were done!
It was incredible the reaction we got, absolutely overwhelming. Each carriage we walked into we were greeted with people clapping and everyone wanted to have their picture with us and touch the medals. To them it didn’t matter what sport we were from, we were just British Paralympic athletes, we were wearing the tracksuit and everyone just wanted to tell us how proud they were of the team and how inspired they had been. It was so emotional.
The gold medallist photo at Team GB House was just surreal moment. I’m stood there amongst the superstars of the Paralympics, people like David Weir, Ellie Simmonds, Johnnie Peacock, and I’m thinking ‘What am I doing here??’ But then it was like ‘Oh yeah it’s because I’ve got a gold medal. I’ve got a gold medal!’ It was just another moment to savour. Everything happens so fast that you just want to bottle it all up so that you can open it up every now and then and re-live it all because you just get swept along at the time.
For the first four or five days after the Games I probably averaged three hours’ sleep a night and I was thinking ‘I’m not sure how long I can keep this up!’ By the time of the closing ceremony I was absolutely knackered and as we waited to walk into the stadium I thought I’m going to fall asleep in there. But then we walked in and oh my God! The adrenaline took over again and I was dancing around in the stadium like I’d slept for 12 hours! Adrenaline is an amazing thing – I just didn’t want to miss a thing, it was all too special. Even things like being able to get into London’s top nightclubs in tracksuit and flip-flops blew my mind!
I opted to have my gold post box in Portland. I was raised in Redhill, Surrey and have ties to Southampton. But me and my husband Steve have made Portland our home and I thought it would be really nice to say thank you to the people of Portland for their incredible patience and support for the British Sailing Team both in the build-up to and during the Olympics and Paralympics and to give them a reminder of what an incredible summer it was for the area.
I’ve bought a load of my gold medallist stamps and all my Christmas cards this year are going to have one of my stamps and be posted in my gold post box!
Life will start returning to some semblance of normality soon, as Steve keeps jokingly reminding me I may be a gold medallist but real life goes on. But there are still plenty of nice things still to come; awards dinners, going Extreme 40 racing in Nice, that sort of thing. I’m exhausted but a holiday can wait for now. I just want to keep enjoying the moment and the opportunities that this amazing summer has brought to British sport.