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.;

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus all the build-up to Man City vs Chelsea and Everton vs Palace
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam