Monday, 29 June 2015

Giving back and being James Bond

Do I look like James Bond?

I came here to give something back, but once again I was getting more than I was giving, and having loads of fun at the same time

As a UK Sport and National Lottery funded Athlete I am required to do a several 'inspire' voluntary appearances. each year. One of these was a talk I had been asked to do at Whitehall, which sort of explains why I was on their roof pretending to be 007but I'll get back to that later.
On the roof at whitehall

Being an eliteathlete can be selfish, introspective and very "me me me" "take take take", so I really look forward to volunteering.  For me its a chance to redress the balance in my life, not only by giving back but also by widening my experiences and meeting inspiring people.  I've had the opportunity to do some really great things, some truly bonkers things, and some incredibly humbling things, and without a doubt they have all, without exception made me smile a lot. Heres just a few

My latest was just last weekend where I was a VIP guest at the Proctor and Gamble Surrey Youth Games. Surrey County Council runs this event to help get kids into sport. It is aimed at all those children who are not County level but who want to take part in a competitive and yet fun arena. Apparently over 50,000 children have taken part over the years since the event was started, and it was absolutely fantastic to see children running about and having fun enjoying competitive sport.
Proctor and Gamble Surrey youth Games
 I met some amazingly inspiring people and sponsors who make this happen, not only believing in the benefits of an active community, these people are actually doing something about it.
Having fun at the games with the inspiring sponsors and organisers. 

Another recent appearance was at a request from my local council gym, who asked if I could be there for the official opening of the refurbished changing village and bubble pool.  I was even asked if I would get in the pool with the leisure centre management for press photos, which I politely declined, instead taking the time to meet as many people as I could.  I really enjoyed meeting all the kids on a busy Saturday afternoon and they all wanted to chat and hold my world championship gold medal.  I forget sometimes that, despite still being 'just me', wearing a GB tracksuit and hanging a gold medal around my neck I become someone who can influence, motivate and maybe have a little impact. It took a little while to clean off the tomato sauce and sticky finger marks from my medals after a 'meet and greet' in the centre café, but I was given a large helium balloon to take home (yay!) and there had been lots of smiling kids keen to tell me about how much they loved their swimming, so it was worth it.
everyone like wearing a gold medal!!

Possibly the most deferential was a Regatta for the Disabled where an incredible group of people organise bell-boat racing for children of all ages with varying abilities/disabilities. It was awe inspiring seeing kids struggle with independent mobility on dry land but then transform into confident paddlers working as a team to propel the boats down the course. It was simply magnificent to watch and I felt honoured to actually be asked to paddle in the boats with some of the children. We had so much fun together and, if I'm truthful, the medal I received for taking part at this regatta gave me as much, if not more pleasure than my world Championship gold medal. They now hang side by side in pride of place at home.
Me padding a bell boat and handing out prizes
So on to WhitehallI was asked to talk at a small conference on personal resilience. I was unsure what I could add of value, but the organiser had heard me speak at another function, and wanted me to talk about how I managed to overcome some pretty big hurdles and achieve what many people might have considered impossible. I hoped that my personal story of failures followed by success, and some lessons I had learnt along the way, might help this office audience see that their own 'something' is also possible if they can see how to put their minds to it. The talk was to be at the Department of Energy and Climate Change and in my ignorance I thought Whitehall was a building, not a road, so felt a bit of an idiot asking a policeman how to find it when I was actually walking along it!!

After my talk, which thankfully was enthusiastically received with lots of excellent questions, I was given the tour of the department and up onto the private roof where a scene from Skyfall had been filmed. They(I ) wanted to get to stand in the same place and at the same angle that Daniel Craig had posed in, looking over the London skyline. Clearly the only difference between us was that he was dressed as 007 and I was in my red GB canoeing jacket;-) This was definitely a money-can't-buy moment.  I wasn't given a helium balloon this time but I floated home nonetheless.

Me and Daniel Craig both trying to be 007
So whats next? I am about a month away from this years Worlds, and if all goes to plan, a little over a year to Rio (gulp). My training is hard, with constant pressure on me to perform to the highest level possible. But what I really enjoy is the part of my role as an elite athlete which allows me to give back. I look forward to these events and only wish I had time to do more

As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the sameAs we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. .~Marianne Williamson (teacher and author)

1 comment:

  1. It is so good to know about your appearances and I am so glad that you had great time over there. I also attended such a great event with my family at the event space NYC. A couple of athletes gave special appearances in that event.