The Olympics Issue:

How We Met: Iain Percy & Bryony Shaw

'She made me do all these exercises, putting me in immense pain; you could call it tough love'

Iain Percy MBE 36

Percy started sailing with his family aged four, and is one of only three British men to have won Olympic sailing golds at two different Games. He won his first title in the Finn heavyweight dinghy class at Sydney 2000 before taking gold in the Star class with Andrew Simpson at Beijing 2008 – a title they will defend at London 2012. He lives in Valencia, Spain

I remember when Bryony first came on the Olympic [performance sailing] team several years ago. All the rest of the team were queuing up to ask her out – though not me, I hasten to add.

Given I was in the biggest of the boats, the Star class, and she was a windsurfer, it was amazing that we crossed notes, but we've learnt a lot from one another. Other windsurfers don't get as involved in discussing things like tides, but she's keen to understand all aspects of racing.

It's important in any team to understand that you can't always have success. And in a sport such as sailing there's a lot of luck involved, such as the wind, so you have to remember the happy times. My best memory of Beijing was when Andrew [Simpson] and I won our medal. We'd just completed our final race and Bryony came out in a boat with [the three-time gold medallist] Ben Ainslie to meet us, and jumped on board. We'd had a real battle, and she knew it, so having her there was an even bigger buzz.

She's been a big support when I've been down, too. When I hurt my back at the start of the World Championships in Sydney recently, it was Bryony who came over to the house to see how I was. I was lying face-down on the sofa and she made me do all these exercises, putting me in immense pain; you could call it tough love. She was in the middle of her championships, renting a different house, but she still came over.

Windsurfing and sailing share tactical elements, but require a very different physical skillset. I borrowed Bryony's board once for a go, but I was a lost cause. To look at her, you wouldn't think she had all that strength and power, but when you see her in the gym in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, you see she's a pocket rocket and an incredible athlete. Will she win a medal at these Games? She's definitely up there, but when you're dealing with the wind, there are no guarantees.

Bryony Shaw 29

Shaw first learnt to windsurf on holiday, aged nine, in the South of France. She has since become Britain's most successful windsurfer, and the only British woman to have won an Olympic medal, with bronze in Beijing. She won bronze in the 2012 test event last year, and will compete in the RS:X class at the Games. She lives in Dorset

I joined the performance sailing team when I was 19, but I missed out on Athens [in 2004], so it wasn't until the training cycle in the run-up to Beijing 2008 that we became friends. When the team comes together, and gets smaller [after selection], there's a lot more interaction between the classes [of event] and for the 2007 pre-Olympics test event year, we both went out to China.

I was in awe of him initially; he'd won a gold medal at Sydney and had this wealth of Olympic experience, while I was just a young, up-and-coming athlete, but he gave me a lot of advice. When the medals started coming [for the GB team] in Beijing, I felt like I was riding on the coat-tails of Iain and Bart [Percy's team-mate, Andrew Simpson], but I wanted to be part of the success, and I raised my own game.

A key moment in our friendship came when I was disqualified from a race after a false start, dropping me back to sixth overall. I came back to the hotel in floods of tears, feeling super-down, but Iain helped me regroup mentally. He said, "You're a fighter, you're a machine, you can do it." Even though he was in the middle of his event he constantly reassured me over the coming days, sitting me down and reminding me, "You can come back from here." He really gave me a boost and by the final race I even had a shot at the gold.

Part of Iain and Bart's preparation is carb-loading and being big and strong, as that helps make their boat go quicker, but I try to be as light and lean as I can for races. I remember one night when Iain and Bart invited me to go out for dinner to an all-you-can-eat buffet. They ploughed through four and five courses, plates piled high, while I just went up to the buffet once to lay a few bits of sushi on this tiny plate, which they found hilarious.

Sailing is not as well-known as other Olympic disciplines, but I really feel that this year, with the British sailors being so strong, people are more aware of our medal potential, and there's a big media buzz around sailors such as Iain.

There's more of a mutual respect between us now, too, as he's been impressed by my achievements, and it's less about him giving me advice and more about sharing ideas – and keeping one another's confidence high.

Bryony Shaw is sponsored by lifestyle clothing brand Fat Face (

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot