A straight-talking windsurfing Bronze medallist, who puts in the miles for her sport

Bryony Shaw hit the headlines in 2008 for the impulsive used of a word let loose on TV on the wrong side of the evening watershed after she won an Olympic medal at her first attempt. Though the BBC commentators scrambled to apologise to viewers, Shaw’s innocent slip of the tongue was understandable.

The fact is Shaw speaks her mind, shoots first and asks questions later. Like many of the new breed of professional sailor, she’s intelligent, articulate, candid and fanatical about her sport. Ask and you’ll get an answer from the heart, occasionally followed by a glimmer of self-doubt as her conscience keeps her in check.

Meet her in the street and you’d be hard pressed to make the connection between this 5ft 6in tanned, feminine figure and the impressively fit and focused athlete within.

When pumping became legal, windsurfers gained the nickname of ‘windwhackers’ and the class became the most aerobically demanding in Olympic sailing. Training routines and lifestyles are very different from those of their GBR team mates. To windsurfers aerobic fitness is key, running and cycling are the foundations to their training. When it comes to gym work, stretching and Pilates-style exercises take precedence, especially after a session afloat.

There was no history of sailing in my family,” says Shaw. “My mum encouraged me to try windsurfing as a way of meeting likeminded kids during summer camps on holiday. I loved it and discovered that I was quite competitive. Most of the others were boys and I liked beating them. My incentive for the sport was because I loved the events.”

Perhaps that is just as well. With sparse competition in the UK, striving for success on the world stage has meant Shaw has had to travel. “Since 2006 I’ve been the sole British female windsurfer,” she says. “I have to find foreign partners to train against and this means a lot of travel. Unless I seek them out, my programme doesn’t work.”

Compared with classes where national competition is fierce, this suggests an isolated lifestyle. When plans jump the rails occasionally, Shaw finds solace talking with her long-term coach Dom Tidey and her windsurfing boyfriend Greg King. That her favourite iPhone app is Skype is no surprise.

Shaw has one of the biggest mountains to climb for success in 2012, but there are few who would bet against her.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Olympic profile: Bryony Shaw part two
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