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What does an Olympic Gold Medallist do after the race is won?
My whole life was planned to the hour for the months leading up to 11:27am 13th August 2016. When I needed to eat, where I needed to be and even what I needed to wear, were all decisions that were out of my hands. I had one thing to worry about and that was getting a boat from the start line to the finish line as quickly as possible and more importantly to me – not letting my teammates down.
People often ask me what motivates me; to get up on those dark, cold winter mornings. How do I deal with putting myself through pain every day? The reason I do it is for my team mates and knowing that if I don’t, someone else will. That’s one reason, the other is to be able to stand on the top of the podium with said team mates, singing the national anthem whilst the union jack climbs to the top of the flagpole to a backdrop of Christ the Redeemer, knowing that you have all done it together. I hadn’t planned for that moment; I hadn’t even thought what it would be like to actually win. I had visualized the race many times in my head, the what if’s? and the worst case scenarios, and of course the ‘perfect’ race where you walk away from the field and see them all in your wake as you eat up the 2000m course cruising towards an Olympic gold medal. Thankfully that vision couldn’t have been more accurate, it really was the ‘perfect’ race.
One of the most overwhelming factors of the games was the support from back home. Now, 4 months on, it is still hard to believe just how many people were shouting at their TV’s and jumping around their living rooms. Little pockets of GB superfans spread across the country all watching the same moment in time celebrating together. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the unbelievable welcome the whole team received when we stepped of the plane at Heathrow, it was the first time I actually realised people had been watching us all competing.
The unexpected challenge of having to wade through crowds of fans awaiting autographs, being asked for a selfie and the many hands wanting to touch a gold medal. These things don’t happen to a quiet lad from a quaint Cotswold village. I have enjoyed the repercussions of winning a Gold medal, besides the extra photo opportunities, and half time interviews at Wembley. Being able to visit schools and tell my story has been so rewarding. If the success of the summer inspires just one child to follow their dreams or feel they can do anything if they set their mind to it. Then there really is an Olympic legacy.
Writing this at the start of 2017, the achievement of the summer is still yet to sink in. But to be named in the New Year’s honours list as a recipient of an MBE is truly unbelievable and a huge honour. I was so proud to be able to represent my hometown and my country at the Olympics, that was an honour in itself. But to be recognised in this manner alongside some remarkable individuals is something I had never even dreamed of.
The last 6 months have flown by and It feels like I haven’t had time to catch my breath but in the run up, during, and now after the Olympic Games I have had so much support. I would just like to say a big thank you to my friends and family, everyone who tuned in to cheer me on and of course Robert Welch, who have supported me throughout this season.
It has been quite an amazing 2016!