Photo: Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP
It is 100 days since the end of the Games and Team GB’s stars are still growing used to their new celebrity status. Seven champions reveal all about their new lives, from mixing with royalty and supermodels, to playing table tennis with Ali GGreg Rutherford (Athletics, long jump)
My most surreal moment since the Olympics was attending the GQ Men of the Year awards and then afterwards being invited back to Matthew Freud’s house.
I noticed Bono hanging out in the kitchen before somebody beckoned me to go downstairs. I was with Louis Smith at the time and when we got down there we saw Matthew playing table tennis with Sacha Baron Cohen, Damian Lewis and another man.
I was just standing there in awe of all these superstars when Damian put his bat down and said, ‘Stop guys. Let’s give the Olympians a round of applause’. I just thought, ‘What on earth is going on here? This is the weirdest moment of my life’. I was so shocked that I don’t think I even said anything in reply. You never expect that kind of thing when you’re an athlete, especially in track and field.
Being recognised constantly is one of the strangest things I’ve had to get used to. Before the Games I was fairly anonymous but now I get spotted all the time, which is really weird.
At first it’s quite hard to get used to because people tend to stare at you. Often they have a confused look on their faces which can look a bit aggressive at times. You start thinking, ‘Why is that person giving me dirty looks?’ Then you begin to realise that it’s just that they are trying to figure out where they’ve seen you before.
Even today, I was just doing a bit of shopping in London and I had a couple of guys come up to me and say, ‘Can we just shake your hand?’ I just said, ‘Of course. Thank you’. Often I don’t know what to say.
My life has changed hugely since I won my gold medal. Before the Games, I’d do the odd appearance here and there, maybe once a month. Now it’s got to the point where it’s been five or six a day. It’s been absolutely manic.
The fact that I am rehabilitating from surgery on two hernias and a long-term foot problem has given me the time to accept a lot of invitations, but everything will have to wind down when I return to full training in three or four weeks’ time.
To be honest, I’m really looking forward to that. I am, first and foremost, a long jumper, and I’ve been missing jumping so much. I hate being inactive and unable to maintain my fitness.
Kat Copeland (Rowing, women’s lightweight double sculls)
It might have seemed from my expression at winning gold that I was overcome with amazement. Actually, it was more a sense of shock. I had been so disciplined beforehand in not thinking about the outcome. Whenever I caught myself thinking, ‘What if we could win?’ I snapped back into reality mode. So when I crossed the line, all that suppressed emotion came out.
Rowing was one of the first sports to finish at the Olympics, and when the regatta wound up at Eton Dorney I moved straight across to the main Olympic Village. My best friends came down from North Yorkshire, and everything was so hectic that I did not think too much about what I had just achieved.
I just went out a lot – something I would never normally do. Even for my 21st birthday last December, I went to a spa. It was refreshing just to let my hair down briefly, and not having to worry about training.
I found that I really struggled with all the attention at first. As it was my first Games, everything happened so quickly. Because of my age, it had been expected that I would go to the next Olympics in Rio, rather than this one.
I needed to get away for a while and go back to my parents’ place. Eventually it died down, though, and I am back preparing for British trials this weekend. I am a little wary of being regarded as a celebrity. I know that world can be quite fickle sometimes. For me, it is very important to show that there is a lot of talent in my home area and that the opportunity exists for people to do well. I also intend to resume my university studies at some stage – I have a place to read biology at Newcastle.
Education is extremely important but sport is what I want to invest myself in while I am still young. There will be time for university afterwards. British rowers such as Constantine Louloudis and George Nash are studying for degrees at Oxford and Cambridge, but the combination was not something I was happy with. I guess it is a personal balance, but at the moment, rowing is my job and I love it. I could not think of anything else I would rather do.
Peter Wilson (Shooting, double trap)
Without question my life has changed since the Olympics. For example, I’ve long been completely addicted to the computer game Call of Duty. So much so my girlfriend almost finished with me because of the amount of time I spent on it. Well, the other day I was invited to help them launch the new edition of the game. Me, up on stage launching it, instead of being down there queuing up to buy it: that’s the difference a gold medal makes.
No one in my family had ever attended an Olympic Games before London, never mind won anything there. So these past few weeks since winning gold has been a huge new experience for me, and a very enjoyable one.
At the moment, I am in Dubai, having my first holiday in four years. I don’t have my gun with me, and it’s very strange not going down to the range. I’m here to spend some time with my coach, Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, who I haven’t seen since the Games. He was the first ever Olympic medallist from the UAE and is extremely popular here, so we’ve been doing quite a lot of media duties together. For the rest of the time, I am just relaxing.
It seems very odd not to be under pressure for the first time in four years, but the circuit is going on without me at the moment. I made the decision to step back a bit from shooting. There were several reasons, one of which was I felt I owed it to my family to try to earn a little bit of money out of my success. Plus, I was shattered. I’ve never worked harder at anything than I did for the London Games and I think it’s sensible to take a break. I liken it to being full after spending four years doing nothing but eating and eating. Eventually, you have to take time out to let your stomach settle.
I am only 26, I love this sport, so I would love nothing more than to go to Rio. But it will be hard, the competition is beyond fierce. I don’t want to go there without being absolutely committed to gold. And in the meantime, I’m having a bit of fun. I’m going to compete in the Olympics Superstars, which is on the BBC on Boxing Day. I think I’ve been set up here. Just reading the list of who is competing makes me realise that it is not a competition for a double trap shooter. I’m trying to do a bit of training in preparation, but basically I’m benchmarked for last place. But never mind. At least on this occasion I won’t worry if I do finish last.
Etienne Stott (Canoe slalom C2, with Tim Baillie)
Losing is the worst thing that can happen to you in sport, but sometimes winning isn’t far behind.
I learnt this the hard way in 2006, after we finished first at the World Championships. I had a really rough spell afterwards: I couldn’t get my head around what we had achieved and felt terrible.
With the Olympics, I didn’t want to make the same mistake again so in the build-up we worked very hard on how to cope with what could happen in the aftermath.
We prepared with our sports psychologist, Katie Warriner, who was very keen that we just focused on what we could affect: ignore the crowd, ignore the hype, ignore other results.
That was a huge help. It gave us a sense of control and meant our emotions weren’t all over the place, even after we won the gold. It’s also really important to stay busy after a big win.
Normally, I would plunge into some DIY, or some big project at home, just to keep my brain occupied.
After London we didn’t have to try hard to stay busy: almost every moment has been spent dealing with the media. We’ve just had no time to have a comedown, and certainly not to get back into a training routine. It took me four weeks to even set foot in a boat after the Games.
It didn’t help that we didn’t have an agent. Before the Games we had no profile worth maintaining, but since we won the gold, we’ve been fielding almost everything ourselves. I was asked to be a guest on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Fighting Talk which was quite an intense experience, and Tim was invited to take part in a wild beaver hunt in Scotland, whatever that is.
I wouldn’t say the commercial offers have been pouring in: quite the opposite, in fact. I don’t know whether it’s the economy or if it’s just a really crowded marketplace, but we haven’t suddenly become millionaires on the back of our success, although I did manage to get a good deal on a holiday in Mauritius.
The main thing is that we have had our funding guaranteed for 2013, which was a huge relief.
The most enjoyable aspects of life as a gold medallist are the small things, like no longer having to explain to people how canoe slalom works. Oh, and not forgetting our invite to Buckingham Palace for a big reception earlier this month.
Shaking hands with the Queen, chatting to the Duchess of Cambridge about how excited she was about the canoeing, taking David Cameron to task about choosing to go to the sprint rather than the slalom. That was crazy. But definitely a good kind of crazy.
Dani King (Women’s team pursuit, with Laura Trott and Jo Rowsell)
The moment I realised the power of an Olympic gold medal was when I accepted an invitation to attend a Naomi Campbell charity function soon after the Games. I stepped into a room full of supermodels, pop singers and TV celebrities and they made me feel the star of the show. Quite ridiculous, but I suppose the Olympics had captured everybody’s imagination.
Laura Trott, my ‘roomie’, was competing in the omnium the day after we won the team pursuit so I slept on Joanna Rowsell’s floor in the village that night so Laura could get some rest. I remember waking up the next morning, turning over, and the first thing I saw was my Olympic gold medal. “What’s that?” was my first thought before it all came rushing back.
I didn’t go near my bike for a month after the Games and threw myself into the party scene and accepted every invitation I could, including some photo shoots, which were great. We also went to Marbella for a break and I had the novelty of paparazzi following me, which was a steep learning curve.
After a very committed, hard-working, 18 months I decided to relish everything about that post-Games period, but then came the moment to get back to work and start preparing for the World Cup meeting in Glasgow. We went to Majorca for a week’s training, just to get back on the bike every day and then switched back to track work in Manchester.
I loved getting back in the routine and getting off the post-Games merry-go-round.
It was hard and there is plenty of work to do but we won in Manchester and now tomorrow, myself and Laura are flying to Australia to join up with the sprinters for a month-long camp and training block.
No distractions, no Christmas parties and Olympic functions, just riding our bikes every day in the sun. We want to defend our team pursuit world title in February and there are no shortcuts to that kind of success.
Winning Olympic gold hasn’t changed me. I met up with some old school friends soon after and just for a few minutes it was strange, they sort of stood back a little bit to see if I was the same person but they soon realised I was just the same old me. As a rider I am still young with loads of ambitions to fulfil. It still feels like a beginning for me.
Alistair Brownlee (Triathlon)
In two weeks’ time I’ll be travelling to Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, for my first training camp since the Olympics – a return to normal life. To say I’m looking forward to it would be an understatement.
It is not that I haven’t enjoyed winning gold in London. The invitations to dinners and awards ceremonies, and being asked to turn on Christmas lights have been a great adventure and I’ve really appreciated the opportunities, but life has been very hectic.
A couple of weeks ago I resumed training and it made me realise how much I enjoy just getting up and going to the pool and then getting on my bike.
Life has not really changed at all. The only real difference is that I’m no longer living with my brother, Jonnie, who has bought his own house – although he’s still just 500 metres up the road. We’re still training together, just as we’ve always done.
For the first fortnight after the Olympics, life was crazily busy with so many events to attend, not least the homecoming through the streets of central London, which was a real highlight.
When I did manage to get some time off towards the end of September, I went down with appendicitis and had to have my appendix removed. I had to postpone a holiday I had booked to Brazil but fortunately I recovered quickly enough to fly out a week later.
Before I head off to the Canaries I do have one important commitment. On Saturday, Jonnie and I will be filming an Olympic-themed revival of the old Superstars programme. With only a couple of weeks’ training under my belt, I’m not expecting too much. If I had to do a triathlon now I would definitely be struggling. Hopefully I’ll have enough in the tank for a few squat thrusts.
Nicola Adams (Flyweight boxing)
The first thing I had to do after the Games was get an agent. I just couldn’t cope with the demands and requests coming in from everywhere.
I never envisaged having an agent. Since the Games, I get noticed wherever I go and get congratulated by everyone. I get invited to events left, right and centre: movie premieres, visiting schools, talks, all sorts of things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t win a medal.
I’ve had TV appearances – they invited me on Alan Carr’s Chatty Man and 8 Out of 10 Cats which was really fun, although nerve-racking. I was far more worried about going on TV than I am before I go into the ring.
I’m quite shy and I’m just getting used to being in the public eye all the time.
I was planning to take a holiday after the Games but everyone wants to see me and I feel like I’d be letting people down so I’m hoping to go away over Christmas.
It will definitely be somewhere warm. I haven’t had as much time with my dog, Dexter, as I would have liked, but I have watched the videos of him at the kennels getting excited when he sees me boxing at the Olympics on television.
Funnily enough, the biggest change is going shopping in the supermarket.
I made the mistake of going in at peak time, thinking I could do normal shopping, but every time I went I was surrounded by well-wishers and couldn’t move. It was a trolley jam. I’ve taken to shopping at midnight in 24-hour supermarkets.
But I’m still smiling – a lot. And thinking of the Commonwealth Games and Rio in 2016, of course.
Ben Maher (Team showjumping)
I was in Stuttgart over the weekend, competing in a World Cup qualifier. The showjumping calendar goes on; it didn’t stop with the Olympics. We didn’t get any rest after the games. My Olympic horse, Tripple X [sic], took a break. But I didn’t.
Even after winning a gold medal, I’ve not found it too hard to motivate myself on the circuit. We’re lucky in our sport, there’s always something else to strive to succeed in. There’s plenty of things to tick off my list of personal ambitions, not least doing well in the individual showjumping at the Olympics.
That said, if I’m honest, at this time of year, as the season is coming to an end, you do get a little jaded. It isn’t so much the competition – that remains something that you relish – it’s the travel which can get a bit relentless. This weekend I was slightly struggling to get geed up. Maybe it was the weather.
I won’t finally get a break until after a competition at Olympia. I haven’t even had time yet to work out where I’ll spend Christmas. Probably at home in Bishop’s Stortford. Then I’ll have the chance to look back on the games properly.
Has it changed my life? Well, I get recognised. People say “hey, you’re that showjumping bloke”. I went into Bishop’s Stortford the other day to get a Hallowe’en costume and the shop was absolutely rammed. But then the serving staff saw me and gave me preferential treatment. It was really nice.
As far as the sport goes, for us to win the gold medal was better than winning any grand prix, any amount of money. But one thing I’ve discovered: it doesn’t pay. I’ve been to functions with other sportsmen since the games who tell me their gold medal has brought them new business. It hasn’t for us. Everyone said win gold and you’ll be able to attract the corporate sponsors. It hasn’t happened. A shame, because there is so much our sport could do for big companies, marketing wise.
And I do think about that time in Greenwich a lot. I bred my horse from the beginning, so to win on him in front of the home crowd, it was a dream. I don’t think it could ever be repeated. The venue was unbelievable, the result couldn’t be better, especially as we as a team were written off by a lot of people. Mind, we believed we could win it, so it wasn’t a shock for us. We enjoyed it so much, it was amazing times. There’s not a day goes by that we’re not trying to use it as fuel to propel us all forward.
Interviews by Simon Hart, Jim White, Brendan Gallagher, Gareth A Davies, Oliver Brown and Andrew Fifield
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