Monday 17 December 2012

Where were you when....?

Every year one of the most respected broadcasting corporations in the world, the BBC, announce their Sports Personality of the Year, voted for by the public. This Olympic year, this British Olympic year, the individuals who didn't make the list could have easily been triumphant in any other year except this one. The standard was so high that double Olympic gold medalists were overlooked.

But the entire list was one filled with athletes that commanded respect, had gone on a journey, that had broken records, that became some of the most powerful role models imaginable, had finally fulfilled a dream, had finally catapulted a Briton to the top of their sport, or even just broke through excellence never seen in their sport before now.
These were people who had inspired every generation in the country.

So what seems like the yearly round up of sport, to end all round ups, may have well have been fitting for the end of the world... what a way to go out!
It was less of a question of who do you want to win, but with every athlete, every achievement, every moment summarised and remembered, more the question of: "Where were you when...?"

I still can't believe for me what an incredible sporting year it was. My love, my passion, my hobby, my job, sport for me, more than any other year was like a dream and what's even more incredible is when someone asks me: "Where were you when it all happened?" In a few cases I have the privilege of saying, "I was there".

As I've mentioned before, I'm a life long Chelsea FC fan. Since the age of about 5, I dreamt of going to see my team play at Stamford Bridge. This year, I went to see them again during the group stages of their European adventure and while not in Munich, was on the Fulham Road, home of the club, to see Chelsea lift the Champions League for the first time in our history. Amazing!
Picking up every highlight, I sat anxiously watching the Tour de France, having been to Paris the previous year, I watched the man who learned to ride his bike competitively in the very velodrome I sit on the trust board of, ride to victory in the biggest cycling event on the planet. The first time for a Briton ever to wear the yellow jersey in Paris. After le Tour was done I would run to watch the riders come speeding past in the closing stages of the Olympic road race and time trial. What a ride. What rides!
I watched to see unfolding before our eyes, British Cycling deliver even more golds in the velodrome where I volunteered in the Olympic test event. Sir Chris, my cycling hero, a fellow Scot and more importantly fellow Brit, becomes the most successful British Olympian ever. Sarah Story would follow with record equalling rides on track and road to tie with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson's modern Paralympic record. Incredible!
The rowing, where for the first time British females, took home gold from an Olympics. I had the privilege of knowing I had been even a tiny part of the team in LOCOG as an Intern with the rowing competition team 2 years before. I sat glued to the television where finally, finally, Kath Grainger, the stalwart of the women's rowing team, found her silver lining turn to gold. Wow!
A golfer since a young girl in Scotland, I was out of my seat during the Miracle of Medinah. The putts that took your breath away and elation to be European. At times I couldn't watch what was unfolding in front of me except peeking through my hands, that would cover my eyes from something I couldn't believe was actually happening, that we had won. Breathtaking!
How do you put into words, when a British man conquers a sport like Ben Ainslie in the Sailing, when a country embraces disability sport like never before in history, or when a British woman becomes the first ever in her sport - Boxing at the Olmypics, gold for Nicola Adams?
In the Tennis we watched Andy Murray grow into himself, a pheonix from the ashes of an emotional Wimbledon final defeat, to come back to the same ground as an Olympian and conquer it. Olympic champion, the seeds were sewn for a nail biting US Open final - how could I go to bed? He finally became the first British man since Fred Perry to win a men's singles major. Astonishing!

Then there was 'that Saturday'. 04.08.12, 21:00pm, the evening session and 46 minutes of incredible sporting drama. Jessica Ennis, in her final event of the Heptathlon, with the biggest welcome roar I've ever heard. Mo Farah, a wall of sound like a Mexican wave moving around the Olympic Stadium and all of a sudden across the other side of the stadium, a massive noise, cue Greg Rutherford.
3 British Olympic golds, where was I? I was there, in the stadium. Just Phenomenal!

Words don't do justice to what a privilege it has been to be British, to be a Londoner, to be a sportswoman, to be there. How do you ever top that? Will we ever see a sporting year like this again?
Not likely.

I can't see how you would ever top this year, except maybe this...
When you have challenges ahead yourself, maybe your time is next?

There's being there and then there's your definition of being there, actually taking part as an athlete.

It's impossible to ever forget 2012...

...but bring on 2013 and 2014!

Saturday 1 December 2012

The Elevator Pitch

It might be a perfect team, it may be a perfect challenge, it may even be a perfect package, but one of the obstacles Race Across America riders face, is that simply getting your team to the start line is an achievement in itself, particularly if you and your team don't live in the USA.

RAAM takes money, it takes backing, but you can have the most beautiful looking sponsorship proposal around. It means nothing if what you're doing doesn't mean anything to you. I always say it's easiest to sell what you're really passionate about, but people still ask...

Why RAAM? Why epilepsy? Why this kind of challenge and why should we care?

The short answer is, that in order to explain properly the answer to those questions, I can't give a short answer. But give me a ruddy big elevator and here goes:

I've said this before and in order to provide context I'm going to say it again. I'm in a very privileged position. So I'm not going to waste it.
I have epilepsy, but I'm one of the 5% of people with the condition, who was eligible for surgery. I have had such great care that even when the surgery had only removed 99% of my condition, medication was found to be able to control the rest we think. I'm in a position where I can demonstrate, just how much epilepsy actually effects the people who have it's capabilities and look for coverage of what I'm doing to try and save lives. The fact of the matter is sport doesn't lie. In an extreme form, it can demonstrate just what individuals are capable of. Why RAAM? Well, in its Solo category it's amassed less official finishers than individuals to summit Everest. To date there has never been a British female to finish the race Solo.

So that's what I'm trying to do. To push my body beyond any normal limits to show that epilepsy doesn't affect people in the way much of society expects it to. Gaining coverage of this will allow me to get the message out about what to do for epilepsy first aid. So to answer the question, why should anyone care? This kind of awareness has the ability to turn preventable deaths into saved lives.
Epilepsy kills more people than cot death and HIV Aids combined, each year.

Why epilepsy? Well, because it's grossly underfunded and in some cases very badly stigmatised. Having to deal with the condition is one thing, but having to deal with the stigma on top, is another. It's inexcusable that people are overlooked in such important areas of their life, because they're viewed as a condition and not as the person they are and can be.
The stigma is such that I know of many individuals who are in public life, that won't admit to having epilepsy, because they're in fear they could never work in their discipline again. Given the lack of knowledge about the condition, it's not shameful, it's understandable. So if what I'm doing inspires just one other individual to speak about their epilepsy and they had the power to inspire another person with the condition to talk about theirs and so on, then my job is done.

So there you have it. I'd like to think we are a great team and this is a really exciting project. I'm confident we have that box ticked. But for a company looking for something which is not only a cool concept, but that has the potential to change opinion and attitudes and even to save lives, I genuinely believe Team Epilepsy Forward ticks that box too.

We're not just a project that sounds fun and has a charity stuck on the side for good measure, we're a team with a purpose and a mission.

All we need are people who believe in us enough to help us achieve it.

... I think this is your floor by the way.