Bryony Shaw made history last year when she became the first British woman to win an Olympic medal in windsurfing. And this year she has matched that bronze with one in the European Championships. Sportsister met up with her at the 2012 Olympic sailing venue to chat about her plans for gold, swearing live on the BBC and her love for being out on the water.
On the plan for London 2012: I have now established myself as Britain’s’ number one and we are clear that Dom (Tidey) is the right coach for me. So as a pairing we have produced a four year plan. We know our goals so there is less of a panic this time (than before Beijing).
We have got more self confidence having won the bronze and being so close to winning gold. I really feel that coupled with the home advantage of knowing the waters here at Weymouth, where I have been sailing since I was 15 I have a great chance of gold.
On swearing live on the BBC after winning her bronze medal: Most people understood that it was just my true emotion coming out and that it showed how much it meant to me. Although I also got hate mail for it, which shocked me. I crossed the finish line, it was all going on all around me and then there was a microphone right under my face, and it was the first person who has asked me to react to what had happened and that was just my natural reaction.
On the importance of taking a break after a competition like the Olympics: I’m a workaholic so it wasn’t easy to step back and take a break. My coach, my physiologist and Nick Dempsey – a bronze medalist in Athens – encouraged me to take a proper break. He pointed out that this was my only opportunity to have a break for this length of time in four years. My physiologist was really the one who convinced me it was a good idea. Usually he is drumming it in to me how important fitness is.
On getting back on the board after a break: When I first got back on the board in February, I was pretty wobbly, not very fast and not very fit and trim. It was quite a mountain to climb, and I am still climbing it to be honest. But the first few events of the season I managed to finish fifth and second. So was right back up there with a podium finish.
On knowing it was the right decision to make: Having had that time off it showed to me that I had made the right call. The other girls, like the Spanish girls, hadn’t taken time off and I know they were watching to see what effect it would have on me. We are always watching each others training patterns to see what works and what doesn’t. But I did feel that while initially they thought I was looking a bit shabby after having the time off, I think they saw, and I did too, that in the long run it was definitely the right thing to do.
On the best thing about being a windsurfer: The thrill of being out in the elements. It really clears my head, and gives me a bit of me time. Whatever your level, there’s always something new to learn and everyone is really encouraging – it’s a great community to be involved in.
On surfing: I own three surfboards, it’s my second love really. I spent time in New Zealand before the Olympics as our World Championships were there and got to do some surfing then. I have also been to Brazil more recently where I also surfed. My coach comes along and surfs with me. I’m also into kitesurfing, snowboarding and wakeboarding.
On her favourite place in the world to windsurf: Maui is the mecca of windsurfing. It is where it all began and has brilliant tropical conditions. I also love Brazil and New Zealand.
On the pressure her sport puts on her body: It’s an all body sport, where you are transferring power through a range of muscle groups. This helps take some of the pressure from your arms. The wind speed influences which muscles you use – the windier it is, the more static you can be, whereas lower winds require you to work very hard at trying to accelerate the board through the water and this can be particularly aerobically challenging. This was the case in China quite a lot. Whereas when it gets windier you are still working hard, and your heart rate will be high, but you need to have more explosive bursts of power. So in a ten day event you ideally want a mixture of wind conditions in order to use all your different strengths rather than just one.
On the most influential person in her career: It would be my parents. Dad for being willing to drive to the reservoir after work so I could practice. And mum happy to take me on weekends to compete and be a part of the national squad. Really it is down to them and their support.
On the right hardware for beginner windsurfers: A smaller sail is more manageable. You want a large but not too heavy board, so it’s easy to do turns on, steer around and better for balance. When you have a smaller sail and lighter winds, and you have this big platform it is quite easy to see how you can easily progress in windsurfing. Rather than learning on a tiny board which will just knock you off balance. But as you progress you may switch to smaller boards which are best for doing all the wave jumping and tricks.
On the amount of training she does: It depends on how close to a competition I am. My standard routine is sailing Monday to Friday. I split the day up into two sessions, mainly consisting of sailing but also including cycling or gym work. The weekends are more relaxed but still include some form of exercise, perhaps a bike ride or a run. I have a static stand for my bike and put that out on the verandah – it’s like having a home gym!
Her top tips for motivating yourself to train: I have days when it’s hard to make myself train. I definitely find that having set up my own little home gym makes things so much easier. There are no excuses then. I can’t blame the weather, or worry about not having the right gear. I just pull on my shorts, grab a magazine and by the time I have read it I have done 40 minutes of training! Quite often I will have music playing too. It’s important to get into your routine so then its harder to break. Also choose a form of exercise that you enjoy, because the more you do the more you get from it.
Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Bryony is supporting the Science: So what? So everything campaign, which recognises the importance of science behind everything, including the science of windsurfing. To find out more, visit www.direct.gov.uk/sciencesowhat.