Bryony Shaw 

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Bryony Shaw was part of British sailing’s record Olympic medal haul at Beijing 2008 landing bronze in the women’s RS:X windsurfing  and becoming the first British female windsurfer to win an Olympic medal. Now 26, Bryony is preparing to fulfil her ultimate ambition; winning gold at London 2012.

Interview with Bryony Shaw

No-one can take winning an Olympic medal away from you and that gives you a lot of confidence in being able to fully concentrate on your next campaign. I’m certainly not going to podium at every event between now and 2012, just as I didn’t in the lead up to Beijing, but I have clear goals in a four-year plan and knowing a medal was the outcome last time gives you confidence you can do it again. It reflects that you know what you need to do to be at the top of your game when it counts.

Beijing was just an incredible experience from winning the medal to being part of such a successful team. I was almost able to hang on the coattails of those sailors who had been so successful before and learn from them and that pulled my level up. You can see the commitment people like Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson have and when they are offering you encouragement and saying things like they’ve seen you in training and they think you can nail it’s a huge thing. Every time I’ve been in that close knit team environment at a major regatta I’ve seemed to thrive on it.

As well as my medal, most people remember Beijing for my accidental expletive live on the BBC, in fact it made 6th place in The Sun’s Top 10 TV Foul-Ups last year! However that wasn’t the main way winning the medal made a difference to my life. The sponsorship extensions and deals I was able to generate off the back of it, particularly with main sponsor Skandia and also Fat Face and VW, meant financially I could concentrate on my next campaign without any distractions.

When I first took up the sport as a hobby, I had no Olympic aspirations but after I was brought into the Development Squad when I was 17 that’s when funding and support started becoming important. I got coaching and a few grants at the beginning which was a real boost and also got a few awards for achievement, which also helped. The good thing about how Lottery funding works is because it’s based on medals won at Olympic, World, European and other major international regattas it is a fantastic motivator to want to keep improving. It is also not a short-term reward, you know once you’ve achieved a certain performance standard you will have one or two years’ support which really enables you to further enhance your professionalism and planning.

Being part of the squads and involved in the sport is also great fun and that should never be lost. Windsurfing’s had a massive boost over the past few years particularly with Team15. When I started there was a great National circuit, nothing to do with RYA squads but with loads of different disciplines and a great atmosphere. Then there was a real drop in the popularity of the sport but more recently Team15 has grown and grown and is a really good thing for the sport. Windsurfing development’s become more like sailing in terms of being involved at club then regional level. It provides a very different pathway to the one I followed if kids want to get into Olympic windsurfing.

2012 for me is about making the most of the opportunity to be the best I can be on home waters, with all my family and friends able to be there to watch. You only have to look at the reaction at the Winter Olympics to Canada winning their first gold medal in their own country to see what it means. I’ve got quite involved with Twitter and Facebook and posting clips on You Tube and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of public interest out there. That sort of mass communication is invaluable in being able to make people to feel close to the team and the action and the Skandia Team GBR Supporters’ Club is a great way for people to get involved and back the sailors.