Things are slightly starting to quieten down now – well a bit anyway – as my attention turns to Rio 2016.
The events of December ended my dream year on a perfect high – I was awarded an MBE, was on stage at the most amazing BBC Sports Personality of the Year and finally got to enjoy an incredible holiday with my husband Steve in the British Virgin Islands.
Finding out I was getting an MBE was a real surprise. After the Games the vibe was that a special sports award would be awarded as there were so many Gold medalists.
So it was a real shock when the letter came through the door! The hardest part was I was sworn to secrecy. I did casually leave the letterlying around so that Steve saw it, but we decided not to tell parents and let it be a wonderful suprise in the New Year. However my mum had kind of guessed due to something in the papers, so I told her, but she did keep it a secret from the rest of the family.
Already I have been recieving post addressed to Helena Lucas MBE, which feels quite bizarre, but is rather cool!
There have been so many congratulations letters and two that really stand out were from Prince Andrew, The Duke of York and HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne. Both those came through with official Royal stamps on the envelope and I’m waiting for the next one from the Palace, which will hopefully tell me the date of my investiture. The initial letter said it would be within six months so I can’t wait to know. Knowing my luck I’ll probably be at some regatta abroad, hoping Sparky (British sailing team manager) understands when I disappear to the Palace for a flying visit!
The BBC Sports Personality at Excel was an amazing evening! I’ve never been in a room with so many famous people, I must admit I was rather starstruck! To be asked to be one of the 10 athletes to go onto the stage to collect the TeamGB/ParalympicsGB’s team of the year award was a massive honour.
I’d been asked a couple of weeks earlier that if we did win the team award would I do it and that I’d find the details out on the night. I didn’t realise ‘on the night’ would literally mean minutes before though! About quarter of the way through the show, when Andy Murray was on the screen, someone came over and asked if I’d been briefed and when I said no, simply told me I’d either enter the stage from the front or from round the back. No clearer!
Later someone else said when I saw the Brownlee brothers go past me to get up and just follow them, which is exactly what I did! It was very last minute but very quickly organised.
To see all those people at ground level was one thing but to see the whole audience from on the stage stood next to Gary Lineker was unbelievable. It was quite spine tingling, and nerve racking.
The after-party was equally challenging on the composure front. It was just a wall of famous faces, a sporting who’s who, in this enormous room. It took the sailors an hour to find each other! But again betraying my natural instinct and playing it a little bit cool was required. There weren’t too many people walking around having pictures with everyone they met so playing it cool was the best option even though the whole thing was quite overwhelming.
Steve and I had always said we would go away after the Games, but with all my commitments it looked like Christmas was going to be our first opportunity. With Decemer looming we had nothing organised so we were really grateful to Sunsail and Simon Conder for sorting out a trip for us at such short notice.
Getting away was just what we needed and what a place to get away. The problem is we’ve completely fallen in love with the British Virgin Islands and been completely spoiled by the beautiful scenery and fantastic sailing that anywhere else will struggle to live up to it! The beaches were like something from the Pirates of the Caribbean! Because we had left it so late we only had a week away but it felt like longer it was so stunning.
Now it’s all about focussing on Rio and getting my schedule together for this year. I haven’t been back in the 2.4mR yet – that’s planned for the middle of March – but that’s not to say we’ve been sitting around not doing anything.
There have already been lots of discussions about how we can move the campaign forward from where we were at the end of the Games. It was a gold medal-winning campaign but nothing is ever perfect and we know the rest of the World will be looking to up their Game, so we need to stay a step ahead! I think Rio will be more competitive than ever, and It would be fantastic to defend my title and be the first double Gold medallist in Paralympic Sailing!
However, I need to be careful not to get completely consumed by Rio yet though. I know these next three-and-a-half years will go so quickly but I can’t get on to the treadmill of doing all the events, and let myself get distracted what my rivals may or may not be doing.
The tentative plan for this year is to do three of the ISAF World Cup events – Hyeres, the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Holland and Sail for Gold and probably the IFDS Worlds and possibly the 2.4mR Open Worlds in Poole.
But I want to do lots of other types of sailing to get experience in other boats I can take into my 2.4mR sailing. So far SB20, Etchells and Dragon sailing have been talked about so who knows what il end up competing in.
It’s just great to be heading into this campaign refreshed and excited about sailing!