Imagine spending years of your life training and preparing for one day.
Imagine all the dedication, the determination, the hours of hard work, the travelling, the expense, the highs and lows … and it all comes down to one moment; one chance to produce your absolute best in front of the world’s elite in your chosen sport, an auditorium full of spectators, and millions of people watching around the world.
And then imagine having to produce that performance in just about the same time that it has taken you to read these three paragraphs.
Yesterday, I drove down to Graves Health and Sports Centre to meet someone who did just that…
Prior to the Rio Olympics, Great Britain’s medal haul in trampolining amounted to precisely none at all, but on 12 August 2016, that record was wonderfully broken by Bryony Page, whose silver medal was one of the great achievements and emotive moments of the entire Games.
In just twenty seconds, Bryony (who had qualified in seventh place for the final) gave the performance of her life – a personal best score of 56.040 points – that secured second place behind Canada’s reigning Olympic champion Rosannagh MacLennan, and sparked a release of emotion that I’m not ashamed to say was replicated in my front room.
I absolutely love all things Olympic, and after being lucky enough to spend time in the company of Ann Brightwell (née Packer) who won two medals at Tokyo in 1964 (including gold in the 800m), and meeting Bryony was every bit as much of a pleasure and privilege.
We sat and chatted for two hours and the time just flew by. I was able to ask Bryony about some of the aspects of her medal-winning performance; I was particularly interested in how she was able to block out the nerves, the pressure … anything and everything that might have affected her performance and deliver such an amazing routine. Fascinating stuff, but i can't give too much away in case it damages my own chances of qualifying for Tokyo 2020!
One week after her success, Bryony was in the crowd to watch the women’s hockey squad win gold; I tried really hard not to give away how jealous I was, but I’m not sure I succeeded.
Understandably, Bryony was much in demand on her return home, and away from sporting arena, she took part in Celebrity Mastermind and A Question of Sport. It was nice to be able to share experiences of being on a television quiz show, because we had nothing in common as far as gymnastic ability was concerned – I couldn’t even manage a decent forward somersault,
Bryony wanted to know about some of the challenges I have completed, my efforts to raise mental health awareness, and also about the upcoming book - I was flattered that she had taken the time to find out about some of the tasks. Bryony had actually completed her own series of 100 challenges in 100 days a few years ago – she even managed to rank them in order of enjoyment. That is something I have never attempted (although the rollercoaster ride would be a distant 100th); but it was nice to be able to tell her that I’d actually “borrowed” three for my own list!
The obligatory photos were taken in the room where Bryony does much of her training - a bit too close to the trampolines for comfort – but on the way out, two clearly shy young girls (they can’t have been much older than five or six) came over to congratulate her on her medal. Bryony stopped to talk to both of them, and it was just such a lovely moment.
Bryony is such a naturally charming and engaging young woman, and we talked about so many different subjects, that I had to keep reminding myself that I was in the company of one of the country’s finest athletes. It was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours … like I said earlier, a pleasure and a privilege.
Richard... Jack of some trades... you can guess the rest