Life after London 2012
For years, they shared one dream: glory at London 2012. Some triumphed, and some were left disappointed. But all have had to go back to Civvie Street after the medals, running spikes and Union Flag Lycra were packed away. It is a month since the last firework blasted out of the Olympic Stadium, signalling the close of the Paralympics. Emily Dugan spoke to some of the stars of the Games about picking up the pieces after the biggest challenge of their careers
Emily Dugan is Social Affairs Editor for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards. Emily is on sabbatical until March 2015
Sunday 07 October 2012
Gold medallist in the men's triathlon
"I woke up last Wednesday not feeling great. I was driving down to London to catch a plane to Brazil and my stomach started feeling worse and worse. I dropped in on my dad, who's a doctor. He was surprised at how bad I looked and I was in A&E about an hour after that.
"I had appendicitis and had to have an operation straight away; I was in hospital for two days. It would have been awful if it had been a couple of months earlier Ω and if it had been a few hours later I would have been on a plane to Brazil. Now I'm almost recovered I'm finally leaving for Brazil. The first week I'm going to north Brazil for a beach holiday to relax. The week after that we're going to Peru. I intended to do a trek, but I don't know that I'll be well enough.
"I remember the closing ceremony being bitter-sweet. It's something you're building up to for years, but once you've done it a big part of your life disappears overnight; that's a strange thing to cope with. Every triathlon I do now is going to be a bit of a letdown... the race in Hyde Park was absolutely brilliant.
"My brother [Jonathan] is still racing and he's off to New Zealand to win the world title. But I decided I didn't want to race."
Double bronze medallist, swimming
"I've not had much time to chill. I'm out in Zambia about to set off on a 450km bike ride for Sport in Action today. Before that I did lots of media stuff and work with my sponsors. But I did have one week's holiday in the Maldives before coming out here, which was amazing.
"I started training for the bike ride about two weeks after the Games. I've had to get used to being on the saddle for hours on end. I wanted to give back and I knew I wouldn't be jumping straight back into the pool, so I knew I'd have time. At home you have to deal with cars, but out here it's more just that; it's very, very hot. I can't believe how hot it is already. I'm sweating as we speak.
"I'd been aware of the work of Sport in Action and I wanted a challenge and to come out and see where the money will make a difference. We're camping and it's going to take four days to go from Livingstone to Lusaka. The heat and the camping are the major things I'm worried about. I'm not much of a camper even in the UK, and there are so many things to be scared of: snakes, spiders, lions and elephants. Now I'm purely focusing on the bike ride . It's not the Olympics, but it's a huge challenge and I want to complete it."
Gold medallist in the T44 100m
"I got back last Monday from a road trip around France and Belgium with my best mate, Martin. The best bit was at the end in Bruges. We had a couple of those foot-long Belgian beers Ω we didn't realise they were so strong, 15 per cent or something. Then we asked for sambuca and they brought out a massive glass of it. I managed to get two down, then Martin downed a pint in three seconds and had to go and be sick down an alleyway. I have maybe one beer every two or three months, but I am very rarely drunk. It was a nice chance to let my hair down.
"I've got an operation on my ankle on Monday. There are bits of bone floating around, pinching in places. It will take me out for about three months, but it really needs to be sorted.
"Last Wednesday night was the first night I've been to my mum's since it's all been over. There was an absolutely huge pile of post, with congratulations from everyone. A couple only had half my postcode and 'Doddington, Cambridge'. That was weird, it means the postman knew I lived there, which is mad. I watched the race with my mum and I think I'll be reflecting on that for a lifetime."
First ever female gold medallist in boxing
"Before the Games I spent the whole time focusing on getting the gold and I wasn't really thinking about what would happen afterwards. It's been pretty weird. I've been in Brazil with David Cameron, which was really cool. It's not every day you get taken on a trip by the Prime Minister. We only found out a week before that we were going there and it was a really big surprise. We got to spend quite a bit of time with him. On the plane back we were sat two seats away from him in first class. We chatted about the boxing and the trip. I've never packed so many things into 48 hours before.
"I flew in a helicopter a couple of weeks after the Games – that was a real 'wow' moment. I was being flown to the York races .
"Everybody comes up to me all the time, but I've got used to that now. Even if I'm just walking into a shop there are people walking up to me. I don't mind it because most of the time they're just coming up to congratulate me. Everybody is really happy about what I've achieved, but now it's back to work Ω the European Championships are next year and I've been in training for the last couple of weeks."
Multiple gold medallist, Paralympic cycling
"Since the Games finished I've only had three days where I haven't had an event and can spend time with friends and family. Every day has been surreal. I keep stopping and thinking, 'wow, what did we do?' Seeing all four medals together, I still can't get over that they're mine. My medals are with me permanently.
"After the Games, I did the Ride Across Britain challenge, which reached its million-pound target. The day I rode for it I completely forgot London had happened. I was looking at the power and cadence, thinking I wasn't trying hard enough.
"It's amazing the number of people who recognise me. Stopping for a pitstop on the Ride Across Britain I was stuffing chocolate in my mouth, drinking Coke and was covered in mud. Even then people came over in the pouring rain to chat.
"Between me and Barney [her Paralympic guide cyclist husband] we've got five gold postboxes. We went on a tour of them with the Royal Mail. It was a fantastic day.
"Now I'm off on holiday to St Lucia with Barney for 10 days. I'm missing my bike already but there's a plantation with a mountain-bike circuit there, so we will definitely be cycling."
Gold medallist in the coxless four
"The biggest thing that's happened for me since the Games was getting engaged [to his girlfriend, Frauke Oltmanns]. It was even bigger than winning my gold medal. I proposed at the closing ceremony, and that was a highlight for us. I came and found her in the crowd and it turned out well. There were fireworks, of course, and it really was special.
"I've had no post-Olympic blues whatsoever, and I wouldn't change a single thing about the past eight weeks. The parade in London was incredible Ω looking in the whites of people's eyes and saying thanks to the people who'd supported us. Just as important to me was my homecoming in Nailsworth, my home town. Every day was crammed full of going from primary school to primary school and the local hospice. Everyone in the country has the same reaction when you show them your gold medal and let them hold it. For about six weeks I was carrying my medals [including a gold from Beijing] everywhere, and I love watching people's reactions.
"I've had a week in New York with my fiancée and we just came back from the Lake District. Frauke and I are thinking about moving house and we want to get married, so it's all about starting the next stage."
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