Sailing: Shirley sees life beyond the ocean wave
Demands of baby twins keep double gold medallist's feet on the ground as she sets sail for Beijing
Sunday 21 January 2007
It may not have occurred to Sir Clive Woodward, the British Olympic Association's new elite performance director, as a route to gold but the answer, it seems, may lie in bathing babies, watching EastEnders, and engaging some formidable granny power.
There seem to be two of everything in the life of Shirley Robertson at the moment. A brace of Olympic gold medals, two boats for her training camp just outside Palma de Mallorca and a pair of houses, one for her and the family, one for her two crew. Then there is a pair of silver Volvo 4x4s to tow the boats and cart the kit and a bright red double buggy to transport her six-month-old twins, Killian and Annabel.
There is only one husband, Jamie Boag, who joins the group as much as his business will allow to help look after the children while mum is training and even to deal with increasingly infrequent broken nights. If you have to be at the gym in the morning - not far to go, as the upper floor of the house has been converted to that plus an office corner space - and sail up to six hours a day, training with German, Russian and Italian teams, you need your sleep.
Especially as, much as Robertson is the skipper, her middle-of-the-boat crew, Annie Lush, is a bit keen on physical fitness. Both Lush and the 20-year-old Lucy Macgregor, who runs the front of the Yngling, the three-person keelboat Robertson campaigned to victory in Athens and will be racing again in Beijing, can also be dragooned into nappy-changing duties when they turn up for breakfast or an evening meal, and another episode of EastEnders.
There are also two grannies on hand, but it is Boag's mother, the redoubtable Phyl, who has moved from her Northern Ireland home to provide an all-round service which goes far beyond being an unpaid nanny. She is a core member of a team devoted to winning Robertson's third gold medal. Others who are called in to help, like coaches and technical advisers, need to win Phyl's approval.
We are not seeing a new Shirley Robertson at work, but an extended one. Whatever the reason, Shirley the mother is a happier, more relaxed competitor. Experience clearly helps. But not everything has changed. She still gives the impression that she thinks perfectionists lack ambition - "you never feel you have cracked it" - and she crunches every problem to bits, reconstructs it and then crunches it again.
In this she finds Lush a complementary force. A near-workaholic, Lush won, while graduating with a geography degree, a Blue in the Cambridge ladies' rowing eight and brings strength and intelligence to sailing while throwing herself into a forest of computer spreadsheets, checking all the worklists in Robertson's overall gameplan. In contrast Macgregor, 20 last November, is content soaking up knowledge every day.
Mallorca weather means the crew are able to sail nearly every day, catching up for what has been a relatively late start to the campaign. "Utopia will be when decisions evolve, we don't have to make them," says Robertson.
Robertson's new team - and that small-team bond is strong - first have to beat her old Athens crew of Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton who, with Pippa Wilson, are now running their own campaign. The crunch could come quickly after the world championships in Cascais, Portugal, in July and then a pre-Olympic event at Qingdao in August. The UK selectors could make their choice then, not least because early selection means concentrating all the resources on one boat instead of two.
For Robertson, non-selection would mean a change of direction, perhaps into politics. "I would like to be a member of the Scottish parliament," she says, adding that, although her mother once won the title of Miss SNP, she has yet to follow the same party allegiance.
For Macgregor, a career in sport is all she wants, while for Lush the political option has faded. "I went to Cambridge very left of centre, wanted to change the world," she says. "Changing the world is not that easy."
Latest in Sport
Chelsea vs Manchester United player ratings: Match-winner Eden Hazard leads the way, but Radamel Falcao endures game to forget
Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0: Eight things we learnt as Blues step closer to the Premier League title
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Where are the tickets for the fight?
Chelsea transfer news: Jose Mourinho plays down news signings Nathan and Yoshinori Muto but talks up Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Arsenal transfer news: Mikel Arteta needs 'five minutes' to sign new contract and remain with the Gunners
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...