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Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

When The Medals Come Home: Inspiring Female Team GB Winners Talk Sport

Taekwondo champion Jade Jones, boxer Nicola Adams, swimmer Siobhan-Marie O'Connor, and judoka Sally Conway in a celebratory photo shoot with BuzzFeed.

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The 2016 Rio Olympics marked yet another stellar year for Team GB. The games saw our Olympians take home an astonishing 67 medals in total, which placed us second on the board with 27 golds – quite a feat, and an achievement that undeniably makes us proud to be British in a year that has tested the country.

The sporting heroes have now returned home and have gone on well-deserved holidays or are already working towards their next set of goals. But the feeling of euphoria and pride still remains. BuzzFeed invited four British female Olympians into the London offices to talk about what it means to be a British woman in sport, the impact of the Rio Games, and how to get more young people involved in athletics.

Sport: Swimming.
Medal: Silver in the 200m individual medley.


How did it feel to be out there representing the UK?

That’s just one of the most proud feelings that there is. To be a part of Team GB and to be a part of a team that did so well, it was just absolutely amazing. There was an incredible atmosphere – we had our own apartment block – so Team GB were in this block and it was just brilliant, the buzz and seeing your flag raised. It's what dreams are made of and that was my dream to stand on the podium and get a medal for Team GB and represent the country. To see all the support we had as well back at home, when we flew back and the welcome that we got, it was just absolutely unreal and the whole nation really got behind us and I feel so very proud to be British.

What were your first thoughts when you realised you’d won a medal?

It was such a great feeling. I remember being in the call room and I was so nervous. It’s the most nervous I’ve ever been. I just felt sick all day leading up to it. And so I just really wanted to race and get in there and just see what happens. And when I got the medal it was just absolutely overwhelming joy. I think because I’d worked so hard for four years and all I thought about for those whole four years was the end goal of trying to get a medal. It was just complete relief and the time I went as well I was just over the moon with because I’d worked so hard, I never thought I could go in that time. It was just the best feeling. I think that’s what we do it for, that feeling. And you know when you swim well. That’s why I’m in sport and I love it so much, that sense of setting a goal and achieving it, it’s just the best feeling in the world.

Do you have any rituals you must do before you compete?

Yeah, I'm really, really superstitious, which is quite weird but I have so many things that I do in the lead-up to my race and the things I do a couple of days before or even the two weeks before. And the more times I race I seem to pick up things that I then have to do the next time as well. But it's just that mindset that you're going to race so [you] follow that routine and I think that's how I get through it. When I walk out to the block I always have to splash myself with water. I always have to do the same things with my arms and my legs and I always have to stretch my legs. It's really weird, but it's in my head that that's what I've got to do... I think there's quite a lot of sportspeople who have that weird superstitious thing but it helps somehow.

Where will you be keeping your medal?

We do get given a box but unfortunately I haven't been given mine yet. I have heard that keeping it in a sock is a good way to keep it safe and not to get it scratched so I'll probably use that idea! So I'll probably keep it in a sock, but nice and close so I might just put it on my bedside table so I know where it is, close by.

What's next for you?

I always planned after Rio to take a big break and have a bit of time off and enjoy myself. I've swam pretty much non-stop for about eight years where I've never really had a big break. So I'm just looking forward to having a couple of months off and doing some different things. And just giving my body and mind a break from swimming because in the lead-up to Rio, obviously it went brilliantly and I had the best time of my life, but it was a very hard journey to get there. It was quite stressful and tiring and it's a lot of strain on your body, so I do really think I need this break mentally and physically. And for us it's all about the Olympics, so it's a good time to take a break because the next one isn't for another four years. But in the summer in 2017 there's our next major competition, which I definitely want to get back in for, so that's the next goal.

What's your advice to young people wanting to get into sport?

My advice for any young people trying to get into sport would be: The more you put into things the more you get out of it. That's something my dad always taught me when I was younger and I was growing up and I first started swimming. I always put 100% into all of my training sessions and I've had so many rewards from it. And I think that applies to so many different things, not just sport. The more you put into things, the more you see and the more rewards you get, so if you give it your best and you enjoy it that's all I can offer with my advice.

Sport: Boxing.
Medal:
Gold in the women's flyweight final.

How did it feel to be out there representing the UK?

It felt absolutely amazing representing my country. It's always a good feeling to be wearing the GB vest and to compete and to hopefully win a medal, which I was able to do. I was able to go and get that gold and become a double Olympic champion. It's never been done before for Britain and I really wanted that piece of history. It was great.

What were your first thoughts when you realised you’d won a medal in Rio?

It's hard to put into words actually. It was a mixture of different feelings. I was happy, a bit emotional when I got on to the podium. I shed a few tears, which is not like me because I'm not normally a crier but it was quite an emotional feeling. I think it's because of all the hard work I've put in over the last four years. I've had shoulder operations, ankle injuries, and then to think you've come back from all that and you've done it, you're an Olympic champion again for a second time.

Do you have any rituals you must do before you compete?

I pretty much keep everything quite chilled out. I don't have to have a specific routine that I do, just because I like to keep my options open for things to go wrong. You might not compete at the right time or I don't know, I might lose my shorts or my bandages, which does happen from time to time. [laughs] I tend to not really go by the books and I have everyone around me panicking and I'm like, "It's OK, it's cool, we've got this under control, I'm OK." So yeah, I like to keep things pretty relaxed and chill, listen to my music, have a laugh and a joke with the coaches. Oh, the one ritual I do have though is I have to have a bowl of Frosties on the morning before I box. That is not negotiable... that has to happen.

Where will you be keeping your medal?

Well my mum's going to be taking that one; she's got my 2012 one as well. She likes to keep them all on display. But at the moment it's being transported round in a sock! [laughs] It's a clean sock. It's just the best transporting device because it stops it from getting scratched.

What's next for you?

My mum took me to the gym when I was 12 years old because she didn't have a babysitter, so anything is possible, anything can happen.

I'm going to go on a holiday and chill out on a beach somewhere, have some fun, go on some Jet Skis. And then come back and I'll speak to my team, see where we're going to go next. But the future's looking pretty good. I've got a few options. Acting. Tokyo [Olympics in 2020]. Maybe some professional boxing. So I've got a lot to think about.

What's your advice to young people wanting to get into sport?

I'd say if you're looking to get involved in sport go down to your local gym and try it out, who knows. I got into boxing only by accident: My mum took me to the gym when I was 12 years old because she didn't have a babysitter, so you know, anything is possible, anything can happen. And I'd like to see another Nicola Adams walking through and stepping into the boxing ring one day. Give it a go.

Sport: Taekwondo.
Medal: Gold.

How did it feel to be out there representing the UK?

It's always amazing to have the British kit on and always feels so proud really to be a part of it, and to get an Olympic gold medal for your country is just the best feeling ever.

What were your first thoughts when you realised you’d won a medal in Rio?

I think this time it was more relief than anything. There had been so much pressure going into it and so much expectation. So when the buzzer finally went and I got the gold it was more like "phew, I did it, thank god I can relax now."

I always get a lucky pair of knickers and socks before I fight, normally with Great Britain on them.

Do you have any rituals you must do before you compete?

Yeah, I do loads of random, weird things before I fight. I always get a lucky pair of knickers and socks before I fight, normally with Great Britain on them. And my family always wear a lucky Jade thing before every competition.

Where will you be keeping your medal?

There's all different places. Some are at my mum's house, some are at my grandad's house, some in mine. Probably by the side of my bed this one, I think.

What's next for you?

I don't really know. Last time I didn't have a long enough break, so definitely a big break this time for a few months and see what opportunities come up and then back into training and go for a third gold medal in Tokyo.

What's your advice to young people wanting to get into sport?

My advice to people who are trying to get into sport would be just to make sure you pick something that you enjoy. You can't go wrong really. Try all the different sports and then as soon as you enjoy something just get involved and try your best and go for it.

Sport: Judo.
Medal: Bronze.

How did it feel to be in Rio representing the UK?

It's always an honour. I feel so proud to represent Great Britain, especially at an Olympic Games. It's the biggest competition I can ever compete in and it's a multi-sport event as well, so it's a completely different atmosphere that I'm used to. It was just absolutely unbelievable to get that bronze medal for Team GB. It was on day five when there was so many medals that day. I think it really helped boost the feeling amongst Team GB and from there we just got more medals as the Olympics went on.

What were your first thoughts when you realised you’d won a medal in Rio?

I was like, "Oh my god, I've done it. I've actually done it!" After years of hard work. All those sweat, blood, tears, overcoming injuries and losses. It made it all feel worth it at that point.

Do you have any rituals you must do before you compete?

Not so much. I don't have any good luck charms. I just prepare for every tournament the same way. I think that's really helped me be more consistent in my performances and results throughout the last couple of years especially.

Where will you be keeping your medal?

At the moment it's in my sock in my bag! [laughs] So I'm just carrying it around, taking it different places at the moment but there is a lovely box that got given to us. I think it will be polished up and put in there on display.

What's next for you?

A holiday! A holiday to Thailand and get back into training towards the end and the beginning of next year. And then do the Europeans and world championships and then hopefully qualify for Tokyo the two years before and be in Tokyo 2020.

What's your advice to young people wanting to get into sport?

I'd say just go along and try lots of different sports, whether it's at school or in your area, go to a local club and just try lots of different things. Find something that you enjoy to do. For me I tried lots of different sports at school, but judo was the one I loved the most. And I met so many new friends and it made me so much more confident and I've got to travel the world with it as well so you never know, go along, try it, you may enjoy it.

Jade, Nicola, Siobhan and Sally on their inspiring advice to young people wanting to get into sport:

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