Well done to all the bloggers who have visited the FRR Site [ We went over the 5000 mark]

stranglersIf it was in my power , i would invite you all to a private Stranglers concert, god bless you all and may your Time Trial Times be fast FRR

Rebecca Romero Olympic Cycling Heroe

rebecca-romero

Rebecca Romero is eyeing me darkly, her face etched with suspicion as she tries to figure out whether I am friend or foe, whether I can be trusted, whether I am likely to stitch her up, and why on earth she is bothering to speak to me in the first place.

She has been described as having the most complex and driven personality in British sport: a fiercely competitive athlete who takes no prisoners; a woman who trains so hard and pushes her body to such extremes that Chris Boardman, who won Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992, described it as “scary”.

I start by telling Romero that my buddy Mike thinks she is the most attractive sportswoman in the country. She stares back and arches her eyebrows as if she thinks I am having fun at her expense. Only when she realises I am serious do her lips move, ever so slowly, in the direction of a smile, then a grin, then a full throated giggle. In that instant, Mike’s assessment is not wide of the mark.

“Oh my God, does he really?” she says, still giggling. “I bet he wouldn’t if he saw me today, I am looking like death.”

We are sitting in the Manchester Velodrome, a facility that was used in the Commonwealth Games in 2002 but has since been utilised as the training base for the all-conquering Great Britain cycling team. It is where Romero hatched her audacious plan to become the first British woman to win an Olympic medal in a second sport; the scene of countless lung-busting cardio workouts and muscle tone-ups; a crucible of pain and devotion.

I ask whether her feelings towards this place are of fondness or loathing, given the agonies that she suffered here.

“A bit of both, I suppose,” she says. “I pushed really hard for a long time. It’s like climbing a mountain and thinking that you have got to the top and then realising you have another mile of sheer rock face to go. The top athletes in any sport are not separated by much and it is often about who can suffer the most who wins. That can be the difference at the Olympics.”

The Olympics. The pinnacle of any sportsperson’s career. Except that Romero, 29, has done it twice. In 2004 she rowed to silver in the quadruple sculls. In 2006, having been approached by Britain’s cycling team, she switched sports in a bid for a piece of Olympic history. The next two years and four months were a race against time, a permanent battle to sculpt her body and mind to the contours of a new discipline.

I suggest that it must have been a wonderful feeling for that decision to have been vindicated in the individual pursuit in Beijing.

“It wasn’t like that. After I won gold, it was like I disappeared into a black hole,” she says. “The day of the final is built upon years of hard work and there is no thought beyond that day, nothing. As soon as I walked out of the velodrome, my mind just switched off. I didn’t even want to think about it. I had just become Olympic champion but I was numb.

“It was like my brain just stopped dead in its track and I had to honestly drag myself through the last days of being at the Games. I just wanted to get out of there and vegetate. I forced myself to go out to celebrate a couple of days after my race, but I just went through the motions. It was like I was a machine and the tank had run out of petrol.”

But when she got back home, with all the acclaim and adulation, it must have felt good? “I think it was even worse,” she says. “After I returned from Beijing I cried solidly for four months.

“When I get really tired and run-down, I get stressed and unhappy. I was in a bad place. I had reached my ambition, but I was empty because I did not know where my life was going.

“OK, I didn’t literally cry solidly for four months, but I cried a lot. I just wanted to have two weeks of doing absolutely nothing, but I didn’t get a chance to recover because of all the media demands.”

This is painfully honest stuff and has echoes of Victoria Pendleton, who also struggled with depression after winning gold in Beijing. But with Romero, the anticlimax seems more raw and deep.

Even now, she seems lost in a labyrinth of emotion, unsure of how to feel her way back into the realms of normality. I suggest that perhaps the depth of her post-Games blues is proportionate to the epic work that she put into that one big day.

“Maybe there is something in that,” she says. “Winning gold was everything, 24/7, and then, when I won, there was nothing left to aim at. My ability to function got less and less and my diary was crazy, with functions and personal appearances. I got to the stage where I thought I was going to break down.”

Who do you turn to at a time like that? Your mother, perhaps, or your boyfriend (an IT consultant)? “Yeah, they are the ones who normally get it.”

What do you mean by “get it”?

“It’s like, they can call me up and realise from the tone of my voice that I am stressed out and getting to the end of my tether, and all the frustrations and anxieties come flooding out.” Romero smiles suddenly, realising she is painting a very bleak picture of her life since Beijing. “I must sound like a bit of an emotional wreck, but I am in a happier place now,” she says. “I am getting ready to get back into training and the next big challenge.”

We turn to the question of why she is so driven and prepared to endure so much to succeed.

“I have a streak of perfectionism, so when I do something I want to do it properly,” she says. “If I do DIY or decorate the house, for example, I don’t just do slapdash painting, my lines are precise. I will spend a whole weekend stripping door frames down so I can get a good finish. But there is another side to me; times when I don’t care, where I am laid-back.”

Really? “Yes, really,” she says, in mock anger. “Actually, that is more the real me. I do not see myself as fanatically driven, so when I read about myself, I find it confusing. Sure, there are snippets that are true, but it is not the way I really am. All that stuff in the press has made me struggle a bit with my identity, because I began to wonder if I am like that. For a while, I thought if I carry on as an athlete I am going to be totally screwed up.”

Maybe you have different personas, depending on the situation? “No, I don’t think I have different personas, but I adapt,” she says. “I have to get the job done, whether it is having fun with friends or winning a gold medal.”

Fun Run Robbie goes to Cornwall

POLHAWN FORT


Rame Head,
Nr Torpoint,
Cornwall,
PL10 1LL

Tel:  +44 (0)1752 822864
Fax:  +44 (0)1752 822341

Email: sales@polhawnfort.com
Web: www.polhawnfort.com

Sleeps 20+ persons

 

For many years now, Polhawn Fort has been an extraordinary and fascinating Cornish family home. Hidden away in a corner of the famous Rame Head Peninsula – loved, respected and feared by mariners since the days of Sir Francis Drake – the Fort has lain at the end of its own half mile drive, untouched by the ravages of civilisation.

The Fort was originally built in the 1860s as part of the widespread defences of the critically important Naval base at Plymouth. Polhawn Fort is one of a number of Forts known as Napoleonic Forts: they were also somewhat fondly known as Palmerston’s Follies, since they were never used in action.

The Fort, a Grade II listed building, has many interesting features, including spiral staircases that appear to wind down in the wrong direction, a working drawbridge, genuine cannon, etc.

polhawnfort08polhawnfort-viewThis is where FFR’S  school chum was marries, he was seen up dancing with his kilt to rthams such as madness and fine young cannibals.