This girl needs no introduction; she very much introduced herself to the nation on national television following her final medal race! But we won’t talk about that, we will instead quiz her on just what it was like to live, breath and windsurf at an Olympic Games and then take home a medal.
Firstly, did you go to the Opening Ceremony?
Bryony: No! It was a plane ride away from the event site and there were a team of us going but then the Star & Tornado boys dropped out and I decided not to go. I actually said I wasn’t that bothered! Hard to believe I know. I went to the closing ceremony though.
Tell us about the night before the first day of racing. Surely you were nervous?!
Bryony: No, because you are prepared for that moment. You’ve done all your fitness, all your speed work and now you just go out and do the best you can. That’s the way me & Dom (my coach) approached it. I had also won the Olympic test run event the year before so I knew it was a good venue for me. I simply felt ready.
But then you didn’t have a great first few days. It didn’t go to plan. How did you cope with this?
Bryony: I suppose it was down to my personality and my experience of events. The Olympic event is over a long time and I thought; it’s not over till the fat lady sings! I had a good start on the first day; I had a conservative (race) plan and I was confident. Then I got a 6th and 11th on the second day and I was really disappointed. I got swallowed on the downwind, didn’t gybe at the correct time and I was cross about it. But Dom (my coach) kept telling me, ‘you haven’t just lost your downwind speed and technique, you just had an unlucky race’. My speed was still there, the decision making on the race course was the mistake.
There was quite a bit of video from that second day as we were sailing on Course A where all the media were so I was able to watch the video, re-analyze it, talk about all the angst’s I might have with Dom and let him either agree with me or tell me not to think like that.
With less sailors on the start line (27 instead of the usual 80), did this change your ‘starting tactics’?
Bryony: Well, there was still a favoured end of the line and there would be a number of good girls trying to get that spot. But we saw these as danger areas. My old style of racing would be to try and nail that key bit of the line but myself and Dom went for a conservative strategy at this event. I tried to be at the favoured end but stayed away from hotspots. If the fleet was congregating into a bunch, I’d get out and go further down the line. It was real dynamic sailing on the start line from me; being aware of where groups began to form and avoiding them. I did go over early in one race and that was when I went against my strategy so it showed me what I was doing overall was right.
Did you ever ‘shut off’ to it all?
Bryony: It’s not on and off for me. I was constantly quite calm about the whole thing. The only time I’d really switch ‘on’ was at the start line. Back on land or back at the hotel I was quite calm. Yes - analyzing my sailing but not with frantic worry, just preparing for the next day and keeping my confidence up.
Did you hang out with other sailing teams in the evening or did you stick to yourselves?
Actually, we didn’t stay in the Olympic sailing village by the marina. We stayed at a separate hotel so we could socialize properly without having any other teams in our faces and we could stay away from anyone that was sick. I think this helped all of the team members but we were the only country to do this.
Did the Team GBR success, especially in the first 10 days, get you psyched up for that Medal?
Yes, we had a BBC feed in our hotel and we watched the cycling and Usian Bolt’s performance on the track. For me it hit home why I was here; for the medals, that’s what your here for. You can treat it as another event, just going through the motions and your routines. Sometimes you need to remind yourself you’re at the Olympics and give yourself some credit for that.
The Medal Race
Were you more nervous about getting Gold or more nervous about dropping out of the Bronze position?
Having raced all week, the Chinese girl (Jian Yin) was racing above her ability compared to the rest of the fleet and the rest of the season. Then the Italian girl (Alessandra Sensini) was racing so well being at her fourth Olympics so I wasn’t expecting them to be down the fleet in that Medal Race. The Chinese girl had to finish in fifth and Alex in third for me to have a chance of going up the rankings and I knew it was unlikely that Jian would be out of the top four. But to be honest, when it got down to the start line I thought, let’s just win the race.
During the race I was in the top two and leading at some stages but I knew Alex and Jian would come forward so it was inevitable that the bronze would be mine rather than silver or gold. Basically we all held onto our positions.
So when you crossed that finish line – you knew the Bronze was yours?
Way before; half way down the last reach I started crying! To be honest I knew as long as I didn’t mess up, I would be ok. I did have a collision at the mark, with the Spanish girl. She had to give me room, then she tried to stick her nose in at the last minute. She was giving loads of protest, shouting on the water, playing to the jury as in the medal race all decisions are made by the jury straight away on the water. I knew I was in the right but none the less, it was a tense moment!
Were you on that British Airways plane that we all saw on TV carrying the medallists’ home? And if so, what did you do after it landed?
Yes, I was just inside the plane right at the top of the steps! We landed and went to a nearby hotel and had buffet, canapés and a glass of champagne with the press (BBC, Sky etc). We did a few interviews then the top guys (cyclist Chris Hoy and Ben Ainslie) were whisked off to a press conference. My Mum & Dad came to pick me up from the hotel and we went back to the airport to pick up my boyfriend, Greg, who was flying back from Beijing. We then went back to Greg’s and had a quiet celebratory evening!
Have Hello Magazine been on the phone yet?
Not yet! We did a cool photo call outside the Houses of Parliament from our sponsor Skandia and at the Skandia evening I got a lot of attention from the press saying I was going to be one of the ‘faces’ for the 2012 Olympics along with the diver Tom Daley and the Junior Wimbledon champion Laure Robson. I hadn’t heard anything about this, but I kept being asked by them so you never know what will happen in the future.
Finally, we’ve heard that the diet of a true athlete can be simply hideous (all that porridge for breakfast and plain pasta for dinner). How was yours?
Well, my aim was to be as lean as possible and in the two months build up to the Olympics my diet was all porridge but no pasta! I had porridge with berries for breakfast with skimmed milk. A fruit salad (mango, kiwi, bananas, grapes) for lunch. This made a nice change from salad and had fewer calories. Dinner was chicken stir fry, no carbs therefore no pasta or potatoes. Remember I was trying to lose weight so I had a lean, carb free diet. When I was exercising I had special electrolyte drinks, developed by the RYA physiologist to have zero calories as well as ‘gel shots’. It was a very, specialized diet. During the games it didn’t change much. I had the odd bit of sandwich at lunch, a little spoon of noodles and rice to go with chicken dinner. My stomach had actually shrunk quite a lot and I didn’t need a lot of food to feel energized. I got to 56kg which I think is the ideal weight for an RS:X woman sailor. Now? Loads of pizza, loads of beer! Ha Ha!
To find out what Bryony is up to now the Olympics is over watch out for her Boardseeker columns and also check out her website: www.bryonyshaw.com