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Going for Gold: Bryony Shaw Interview

For Bryony Shaw, Fat Face team rider and Britain’s number one RS:X windsurfer, life is pretty sweet. Since bagging gold medal at the pre-Olympics last year, the windsurfing sensation is now hotly tipped for Gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. We caught up with Bryony training hard in New Zealand…

Age: 25

From: I was born in Wandsworth, London, I grew up in Oxford and now I’m based in Weymouth.

Have you always loved watersports?
Yes, from a young age I was always in the water!

How did you get into windsurfing?
I had tried windsurfing on family holidays and loved it, as did my parents. It became a hobby when we got our own kit. I would go on youth windsurfing weeks around the country in the summer and made loads of friends. It was a great sport for a 12-year-old to get into.

When did everything turn serious and you decided to commit yourself to the sport full time?
I started racing when I was aged 15 on the 6.5m Aloha at national junior events and must have shown some promise as I made it into the national under-17 team. I had shown good potential but at that time windsurfing was still just a hobby. By the time I moved up to the 7.4m Olympic-sized kit, which was a much bigger sail and board, I had done a few international events and I worked my way up to become Britain’s top female rider in my age group in 2001. That same year, after finishing my A-Levels, I took part in my first adult World Championships aged 18 and finished 17th – only two places off achieving world class standard. After that summer I trained full-time and I set my sights on competing at the Olympics.

Can you give us a run down of your average day?
As a windsurfer, it is hard to maintain a daily routine. There is a lot of travelling to and from competitions and training venues around Europe and the UK. When I have a steady week I concentrate on my fitness and on water training. I go for a tough 2-hour bike ride in the morning and come back knackered! So stretching, rest and good nutrition is important post-exercise to recover.
In the afternoons, after lunch I will rig up my RS:X 8.5 sail and go out on the water with my coach and training partners for a 2-hour sail. This session varies with the wind conditions, so the focus could be technical, tactical, speed or fitness. A hot shower and a stretch afterwards, or sometimes an ice bath helps with recovery for the next day.
Evening activities could be a video debrief with my coach if he has filmed some of the sailing that day, or I might take a trip to the gym to do some weights to develop strength and power. Or I might simply chill out!

And if you could have the perfect day, what would it include?
I would be in a glamorous, sunny location with a surf beach, marina, beautiful bike routes and golf courses. I’d stay in a five-star hotel with a spa, hot jacuzzis, water jets and icy plunge pools. I would get a sports massage and acupuncture from a top physio, and there would be a wide variety of restuarants, bars and shops to splurge in. I’d have to be close to home though, so I could see my boyfriend and friends as often as I liked.

…more…

What are your plans for this summer?
I’m training from Hayling Island over the next few weeks because it is very tidal and choppy, like the Olympic venue in China. I go out to China for the last two weeks in June, then I go back to training in Hayling until the 21st July when I go out to Beijing to compete in the Olympics.

Are you excited about going to the Olympics?
I’m really excited! It’s my first games, but I believe I have a good shot at getting the gold medal.

How have you been preparing?
I’ve been doing lots of fitness training and concentrating on light-wind performance, as the conditions in China are likely to be light.

Have you had to curb your diet?
Yes, I have to watch what I eat to stay light, which is hard work as I do get tempted! It is tough to get a good balance when I am training so much.

What’s your favourite place to practice?
New Zealand was an awesome place to go to give a real boost to my Olympic year. I had some really productive training, sailing off Takapuna Beach with my new training partner, RS:X European Champion of Spain, Marina Albeau. The conditions were fun and testing, and a great surf beach at Piha was not far away. We also managed to get some holiday time in, which was wicked, although cycling was a bit sketchy as the drivers over there are so bad! First on the list of activities was a 47m bungee jump, the next day was white water rafting, both of which were awesome. But our main destination was Teranaki, a round peninsular on the west coast with the best waves I have ever experienced, I seriously recommend it to any fanatical wave sailor or surfer…we didn’t want to leave.

Do you still get nervous before a big contest?
I do get nervous but I think it helps to have that extra bit of adrenaline when I’m on the start line.

You must travel a lot in your line of work: what are your suitcase essentials?
My Apple MacBook, iPod shuffle, BOSE headphones, GHD hair straighteners and my custom Fat Face bikinis and boardies, of course!

What have been your biggest career setbacks?
My worst result happened to also be my Olympics trials for Athens. I had trained super-hard to improve my light winds before the World champs in Cadiz, Spain in 2003, and had lost a lot of weight. Up until then my strong wind performances had been pretty solid, but not this time! I had lost too much weight to perform in 25 knots every day, and my poor performance meant that I lost out on a spot for the 2004 Olympics.

But on the flip side, what have your greatest achievements been so far?
My best performance to date was getting the gold at the Olympic test event in August 2007. That was very exciting, as it is an exact copy of the 2008 Olympics event in terms of venue and competitors.

What affect does your career have on your personal life?
I struggle to see anyone back home with all the travelling I do. When I am in the UK, I love spending time with my boyfriend Greg, but time with my family and friends suffers. I would love to see more of my loved ones, but fortunately I do have a lot of wicked friends on tour.

How do you relax when you get the chance?
I love surfing and chilling on the beach with my mates, being able to just relax, go shopping, and head out to nice restaurants and bars.

What’s up next for you?
I’m looking forward to heading out to the Olympic waters in China on 12th June to check out the venue and do some race training. With only a few months to go until Beijing, the agenda is training, training and more training!


Bryony has been working closely with Fat Face to develop the ultimate bikini and boardies to take her to the top. And the best bit? You can get your hands on this exclusive kit before it’s official launch later this year as we have three sets of bikinis and boardies to give away! Enter the competition now.


Watch Bryony Shaw being interviewed at the Windsurfing RSX 2008 European Championships in Brest, France, ahead of her trip to the Olympics.

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