After the Goldrush: British athletes after the Olympics
For Britain's Olympic heroes life is settling back to normality – training, work and the odd red-carpet appearance. Interviews by Nick Harris
Saturday 04 October 2008
People in my hometown Doncaster have been amazing, coming up and saying congratulations. Even in London I've been recognised. But there hasn't been any official local celebration. The Doncaster mayor, Martin Winter, invited me to the council house and put up a few balloons but I wasn't able to invite a lot of people. The mayor gave a public explanation along the lines: "It's overkill to have a full civic reception for a bronze. She's hardly Rebecca Adlington."
I'm not bothered about it because it's all about the sport for me, not recognition, but it's a sore point with my family and some of the local MPs were upset that more wasn't done.
Apart from that, I've been on holiday to Spain with my boyfriend, Stephen, done loads of interviews, and been on TV to launch an unsung heroes award for the Look North show. I'm pleased to be involved. I've got invites to loads of schools, and there's a parade in London and a trip to Buckingham Palace to come.
I can't honestly say I'm there yet with my satisfaction with a bronze. I trained hard for gold and still feel I should have had a fair shot. But I'm sure I'll be proud in future.
I'm not back in training yet because of my ankle. I'm seeing a surgeon next week. I'll probably need an operation. I haven't decided what to do about 2012 yet. My body needs a rest. I'll be 29 at the London Olympics and realistically that's towards the upper limit for competitiveness. I'll take a bit more time off, a few months. Then I'm sure I'll miss it so much, I'll be back.
Keri-Anne Payne, 20
Won silver in the 10km open water event – Britain's first marathon swimming medal, as the event made its Games debut.
My first session back in training was on Wednesday, and it was a shock. I was in the gym in Stockport at 6.30am and in the pool doing a heart-rate set at 7.30am. Beijing already feels like months ago.
When I got back, we had a family party in Heywood, then I went up to Aberdeen to see my boyfriend [David Carry, a fellow Olympic swimmer].
I came back down and did the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere on 13 September. It was only a mile, but freezing. I came second behind Cassie [Patten]. It felt dreadful; I hadn't been in the water since Beijing and I just had no feel for it whatsoever, nothing at all.
I've been to a few dinners, made a few trips to London. There was a civic reception hosted for me by the mayor and mayoress of Rochdale, and I was a guest at event at Bolton University with the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward. I've been carrying my medal around in a velvet pouch. The ribbon's a bit frayed already but the medal still looks fantastic.
Tim Brabants, 31
Won Britain's first ever Olympic canoeing gold medal (1,000m K1); also won bronze (500m K1)
I've hardly had a moment to myself but it's been hectic fun. I've been on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, and on A Question of Sport. I went to the premiere of "The Duchess" at The Odeon in Leicester Square, and to the after-show party. I met Keira Knightley, and showed her my medal. She was excited, she'd never seen one before. That came about because my old next-door neighbour's girlfriend works for Pathe, and invited me. It's like being a minor celebrity.
I've done two trips abroad; one to Canada to do a 200m event, and one to Portugal to visit Nelo, the firm that makes our boats. I've also done two triathlons. I'd never one before but I was keen for some physical activity. My coach said it wouldn't be all that healthy for mind or body to get back in the boat so soon, but I wanted to do something. I'm used to training two to three times a day, you miss that. So the "sprint" triathlons – 400m swim, 20km bike ride and 5km run – were perfect.
I've also been to the Labour and Conservative Party conferences with the British Olympic Association. The 2012 Games will need support from all parties. And I went to the Pride of Britain awards, where there were genuine A-listers like Sir Michael Caine and Elizabeth Taylor.
I'll need to go back to my "real" work soon, as an A&E doctor. Like my sport, it's both challenging and fulfilling. The Olympics publicity has already helped in getting me offers for work. After the Athens Games in 2004 I went back to medicine for 18 months. I had a physical and mental need to get myself together again after the Olympic cycle. That's the plan again. Work, train when I can, and then get back to canoeing full-time later. For now, 2012 is on the cards.
Louis Smith, 19
Gymnastics bronze (pommel horse) made Smith Britain's first individual Olympics gymnastics medallist for 100 years
The first thing I did when I got back was take my caravan holiday, as planned, in Yarmouth, with my girlfriend, Sam, and some mates.
My medal has meant a few new experiences. I got an upgrade on the plane on the way back. Princess Anne was on the upper deck too, but I didn't chat to her, I just slept. I've done a lot of interviews. I judged a modelling competition and I might be doing something at the Mobo Awards. On Tuesday I was in London, filming Ready Steady Cook. I was up against [the British sprinter] Marlon Devonish.
I was back in training in mid-September, seven hours a day, because I've got international events coming up in Glasgow and Madrid. My aim is 2012, if my body allows it. It's hurting me, because I've had a break.
China was great, every dream come true. But the best thing of all was coming home.
Rebecca Adlington, 19
The face of the Games after swimming golds in the 400m and 800m freestyle
Adlington has spent almost every day since her return making public appearances, from an open top bus parade around Mansfield to a guest spot in the audience at Strictly Come Dancing – her favourite show. Other TV credits include The Charlotte Church show, A Question of Sport and the Pride of Britain awards. She has also been omnipresent in the print media, including features in Hello! and OK! magazines, and has made dozens of appearances, often on behalf of the British Olympic Association, at schools, dinners, sports events and other social functions.
Depending on how her body develops and adapts to new demands on it, Adlington hopes to compete in up to three individual events in London 2012 (200m, 400m and 800m freestyle), as well as the 4x200m relay.
"It's been a bit crazy," she said as she returned to training early on Monday morning. "But I expect things to settle down pretty quickly and I can get back to the main focus of my life, the swimming. I've achieved some goals, now I've got to reset them for London 2012."
Rebecca Romero, 28
Cycling gold (individual pursuit) to go with a rowing medal at Athens 2004
It's been manic. Stupidly, I moved house the week after coming back and I haven't stopped. Radio, newspapers, TV including Jonathan Ross, Proms in the Park and The Gadget Show. I've worn gold dresses, been to dinners, done after-dinner speaking, awards ceremonies, school talks. I've had no time for training and I don't know when that will begin again.
I had a week in South Africa on holiday to catch up with friends but I've got a whole heap of admin to do. I've been doing so much travelling.
What I'd really like is a physical and mental rest. I haven't stopped. I haven't had a single lie-in, not a moment slobbing in front of the TV. I'm running out of steam and I need to move my focus on from Beijing.
It would be madness to switch sports again. The sensible thing would be to stay in cycling, go for gold again in London in the individual pursuit, maybe try different cycling disciplines. But I don't know. We'll see.
Steve Rowbotham, 26
His men's double sculls bronze was Britain's first Olympic sculling medal for 32 years
Two weeks after I got back, I got married and then went on honeymoon to Tanzania, to the Serengeti and then Zanzibar. It was fantastic. Eleanor and I had been planning it for two years. Our official date for returning to training is 14 October, although after a hard Olympic cycle, some people might take a bit more.
The response everywhere I've been since coming back has been incredible. I think the public connect with us as Olympians in a way they don't with other sports people. I think the public are sick of footballers on £20,000 a week or more who can't even qualify for the European Championship when they see Olympians on less than £20,000 a year winning medals.
Tom Daley, 14
The youngest ever British male Olympian in any solo event, and in many ways the star of the show – Daley came seventh in 10m platform diving and eighth in the 10m platform synchro with Blake Aldridge
I've been quite busy since we got back, going to events. I've certainly been recognised more in the street than before the Olympics. But actually I've probably done less media than in the run-up to the Games because there was so much attention beforehand. It's been really good just going back to school [at Eggbuckland Community College in Plymouth], to be honest. Getting back to my school work. Seeing my friends. Being treated as normal, although I've had to do a few autographs for the younger kids in year seven and year eight.
I've already been back in competition, at the World Junior Championships, in Aachen. That was good because I could measure myself against people my age. I got silver in the 10m platform, but close to gold. I also got won silver on the 3m springboard and I wasn't even expecting to reach the final, so that was a bonus.
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