The woman who did her own Olympics

East Ender Jen Offord was so captivated by London 2012 that she decided to tackle all 38 disciplines herself

When Jen Offord puffed her way across the fin-ishing line after a five-kilometre run through London's Bushy Park last weekend it signalled not only the completion of her first triathlon but the culmination of a remarkable Olympic odyssey in which she attempted every one of the 26 sports on the London 2012 programme, embracing 38 different disciplines, in the course of a year. Now all she wanted was a pint.

"I was gasping, exhausted," she said, "but exhilarated at the same time. It had been some journey."

One which began when the curtain came down on a London Games the 30-year-old civil servant from the Olympic heartland of Hackney had actually wanted to get away from. "I have always been a bit sport-phobic, and living in the East End and working in Westminster I thought the disruption would be horrendous and I would be getting it both barrels," she said. "I was a real cynic about the Olympics, and it got to the point when I seriously considered leaving London for the duration."

But she stayed, to be captivated by them. "What grabbed me most was the variety of sports. I felt we had been so saturated in the media with football that we had forgotten there are so many other sports that are truly amazing and quite inspirational. Afterwards I thought I'd like to have a go at one, but I wasn't sure which."

A friend jokingly suggested she should try them all. "I thought, that's not a bad idea. Let's have a bash at the lot."

It was an astonishing volte-face for someone who admits she used to bunk off PE at school. "I did the London Marathon in 2009, but that was as much for exercise as anything. I also went to a few gym classes, but the primary motivation for that was to enable me to eat more cake!" So, hard on the heels of Lord Coe's Inspire A Generation came Inspire A Jen, a one-woman mission of truly Olympian proportions which she started with a canoe sprint at the Stoke Newington reservoir: "Tremendous fun and so exciting."

Following this she ran the gamut of sport from archery to wrestling, producing an illuminating and amusing blog* which attracted support from Dame Kelly Holmes and offers of tuition and advice from several members of 2012's Team GB. Among them was Sebastian Prieto, who taught her the rudiments of handball, and hockey's Chloe Rogers.

The former Olympic medallist Kate Allenby took her through the rigours of the modern pentathlon — fencing, showjumping, running, swimming and pistol shooting — and was sufficiently impressed to report: "Jen put herself outside her comfort zone on so many occasions, yet she was really positive and outgoing about the whole challenge. She was very easy to coach, taking information on board and putting it into practice."

Offord says water polo was the hardest discipline and synchronised swimming the weirdest, the latter "all rather cliquey." Boxing she found the most fascinating. "Trying it totally changed my view of the sport. Beforehand I thought it was about a bunch of gnarly-eared blokes lumping each other's brains out. It turns out there's quite a bit more to it — it's incredibly skilful, for a start."

After trying the Girls in Gloves scheme with instructor Naomi Gibson at the Body Studio in Shoreditch, she blogged: "Naomi tells me, 'Keep your arms up to protect your boobs — you do NOT want to get punched on the tit.' Damn straight. I don't really want to get punched anywhere. This sport has taught me that I'm all mouth and no trousers, a massive wuss and surprisingly averse to the idea of punching someone in the face, but the training sessions are amazing."

Offord says she has enjoyed so many sports that it is hard to choose one to stick with permanently. "I was surprised to find I was quite good at gymnastics and track cycling, so cycling is high on my list. But I have learned that you don't have to be good at sport to enjoy it."

Although she never envisaged her groundbreaking project as a giant step for womankind, she does offer a message that sport should have no gender barriers: "Unless participation actually depends on you having male sex organs, how can a sport not be 'a woman's sport'? If you've ever believed anyone who told you that participation in a sport depended on you having male sex organs, frankly, you've been had.

"I also think that we're not exposed to enough variety of sport. Teenagers aren't necessarily inspired to try anything beyond the mainstream sports that are on offer at school, so they don't think there is something out there for them.

"I'm almost certain that anyone could find a sport that they enjoy, and take considerable health and social benefits from – they just don't necessarily know what it is yet.

"In light of my experiences my views on sport have completely changed. I'm fitter, stronger and happier as well." And full of the Olympic spirit.

www.jeninspired.wordpress.com; twitter.com/@inspireajen

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before