It is such an honour to have been nominated for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards for a second time and with it being an Olympic year it’s even more special.
It’s also pretty unique that my first nomination in 2006 was for sailing the Yngling Olympic class and now this one is for my Paralympic achievement. I’m really very proud and while it would obviously be lovely to win the female award, just being nominated and part of the awards evening in Dublin is something I’m really looking forward to.
Me and my husband Steve came over to Ireland on Friday and took advantage of the opportunity to get a few days away together. After spending a couple of brilliant days in Cork we headed back to Dublin ahead of the awards. I’ve competed in Ireland before but never really explored anywhere but the people are so friendly. We’re absolutely loving it!
I’ve had a couple of interviews to do, including one with fellow Team Volvo member, Shirley Robertson for CNN, which is always fun because I know her so well interviews with her are just like having a chat.
My parents have come out for the awards dinner too and I’m really lucky to have had some amazing opportunities and invitations since the Games. I had three outfits I’ve been rotating but it got to the stage where the same people have seen them too many times now! I’ve got to say a big thank you to Laura Kitching at the Dorset Echo who not only managed to get me sorted with some Debenhams vouchers but also came shopping with me last week and got a personal shopper involved to help me too!
I’m rubbish at shopping for myself but they were picking stuff for me to try on I wouldn’t normally even have taken off the hanger. I think I must have tried on every dress in the shop in my size. The idea was to get one dress for the awards but I ended up with two, a red cocktail dress I’d never have chosen for myself for the ceremony and another dress more suitable for black tie events that will get its first outing at Hayling Island SC on Saturday.
Before the Games you never allow yourself to imagine for a second what might happen if you won a gold medal, you can’t afford to think about anything but that one regatta, but I’ve been overwhelmed with what’s come off the back of it.
Probably the most incredible thing I’ve had the chance to do so far was the reception at Buckingham Palace a couple of weeks ago, which unfortunately ended up getting more publicity for the fact two athletes had their medals stolen at the nightclub we all headed off to after the Palace. It was a fantastic evening and an amazing opportunity to meet so many of the senior Royals, including The Queen, Kate and Princess Anne. The Royals circulated around the various groups in the room, very relaxed and informal. It was a special occasion.
Getting to go to these sorts of things you inevitably bump into some of the same athletes at each one. I love that we go to the events as Team GB not as the Olympic team and the Paralympic team because you get to meet and socialise with a mixture of so many interesting and incredible people. One of the athletes I’ve really enjoyed meeting is Heather Stanning, the Olympic gold medallist rower. She’s in the Army and it’s been fascinating talking to her about balancing her career with her sport ambitions. It’s also really interesting learning how other sports do things compared to the way we do things in sailing.
There have also been some more offbeat things that have happened since the Paralympics too. I’ve had a dog, a Labradoodle puppy, named after me by the Dorset-based Woofability charity, which trains assistance dogs for disabled people in Dorset, Hampshire and south Wiltshire. I’ve also been made an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Winchester, but unfortunately the graduation ceremony clashes with the ISAF awards ceremony so I don’t think I’m going to get the Doctorate until next year now
Things are showing no sign of slowing down at the moment either. I’ve been invited to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2012 at Excel London on Sunday 16 December, which I’d really love to be able to go to. But before that I’m hoping to be able to arrange it to get out to Rio to meet the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s, Lord Nelson, Tall Ship when it completes the first leg of its round the world voyage from Southampton.
I promised myself I was going to seize every opportunity that came my way after the Paralympics and although there are days I do feel a bit tired or I think I may have taken on a bit too much I quickly remind myself this really is a once in a lifetime. I’m so blown away by everything that’s happened to me since September I can’t contemplate taking it for granted. Life will have to return to normal at some point but until then I’m having a fantastic time!