During my time at Millfield I worked and played hard. The school gave me an amazing opportunity to develop both my sporting and academic skills and most importantly make some fantastic friends. A-levels went well and I gained a place at Cambridge University. My passion for sport burned brightly and I was throwing the discus well, gaining my international senior vest and was playing netball and basketball better than ever. With an eye on the future I opted to have a gap year working at IBM, which gave me an opportunity to gain some much needed computing expertise.I threw myself into university life with familiar gusto, whilst studying Natural Sciences I quickly found my way to the netball and basketball courts and made sure I was making frequent trips to London to see my Discus coach with my eyes firmly fixed on the Commonwealth Games. I was also enticed down to the boat house to try rowing. The attraction was immediate. I decided to row bow side, with the blade out to the left-hand side of the boat, I thought as I threw the discus left-handed, this would work my right hand side harder and effectively even me out. I found I really enjoyed being a cog in a large unit and most excitingly I seemed to pick things up really quickly! I benefited from the aerobic fitness it gave me and it seemed to compliment my other sports. However despite throwing a personal best the next summer, well over the Commonwealth qualifying distance, I failed to impress the selectors and stayed at home whilst the athletics team travelled to Victoria. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was a turning point for me, and by the time I left Cambridge, rowing, not athletics, was my major sport and I had my eyes firmly fixed on the national squad.I gave myself a year to break into the team. It was going to be tough, juggling a new job with a marketing company with training. For the first time in my life I had no choice but to concentrate on just one sport. While I missed the variety dreadfully, the results were good and I established myself as one of the potential athletes for the Sydney Olympic Games and earned Lottery funding. Training was intense with up to five sessions a day. I pushed my body harder than ever before, hungry for Olympic success, until I discovered that a pain in my side I’d had for a week was actually a stress fracture to my rib. I lost my place in the quad which went on to get a silver medal without me. I raced in the double scull and came ninth. It was devastating to work so hard for something, and miss out so close to the end. It took me twenty-four hours to say, “Well done” to one of my closest friends who sculled in the boat and three and a half years to watch the race. However, having come so close I wasn’t going to give up, and I returned home from Australia determined to train harder and to make my body stronger and more resilient.However things didn’t go to plan, a slipped disc in my back, followed by periods of illness, interrupted my training and I had to take a year out. For the first time in many years, I put myself before my sport and the break did wonders for healing both my mind and my body. With the help of a sports psychologist, Britt Tajet-Foxell, I worked on the ethos of “train cleverer” rather than “train harder”. Making sure I understood what I was trying to achieve with each training session and how this was going to add to my strengths as an athlete. I re-entered the international arena. In 2002 I was fifth in the quad and in 2003 we improved this position to fourth in the world. We had a really strong group of athletes looking for selection in the Olympic year. Eventually, Elise Laverick and I were selected for the double scull. With hard work and a silver medal at the Munich World Cup, we showed our potential but needed to improve on our consistency and race tactics. We trained intensely, living and breathing, rowing, sharing a double room, and rarely being out of sight of each other. Every session was discussed and evaluated with our coach, Miles Forbes-Thomas, until we were on the plane to Athens and the Olympic regatta. It was exciting to arrive at the regatta course, see the many international friends and feel the buzz around the boating area. Because we started racing on the first day of the Olympics, we were not marching in the opening ceremony so missed the massive inspirational boost that it gives. This was compensated for unexpectedly one morning when we passed the Olympic torch relay making its way along the marathon route. Seeing the runner with the lit flame, a lump formed in my throat and I was surprised to feel tears gather in my eyes. I knew I had my chance to perform at my best at an Olympic Games and no one needed to tell me how important the next ten days were going to be. Elise and I went into the regatta seeded fourth; this meant we drew the New Zealand twins, the double world champions, in our heat. This was a great opportunity for us to see how we had moved on since the World Cups and we put together a solid race to come second. This meant we had to race again two days later in the repercharge to gain our place in the Olympic final. Despite overwhelming nerves and a delay for bad weather we crossed the line in first place. We were in our first Olympic final. Every move was timetabled for the next few days to maximise our performance. Eventually at 9.45 on Saturday morning we were sitting on the start line on for the Olympic final. All the preparation had been done, I knew I just had to concentrate, make each of the 240 strokes down the 2000m track count. As a crew we split the race into four 500m quarters. In the first 500m we planned to go out fast and stay in contact with the field, but the boat didn’t feel quite right and we had to work very hard for our boat speed. As we went through the 500m mark, Elise gave a call and the boat responded. I could feel the power we were creating together and knew that we were rowing at our best. The next 1000m passed like a flash, each stroke coming strong and together and gradually I could feel the boats on the outside lanes drop back. I was dimly aware that in a six boat final this put us at least in fourth place. Although in real time it took us nearly three and a half minutes, before I knew it we were coming up to the last 500m. With about 40 strokes to go my legs and lungs were screaming and my ability to see was diminishing. ‘The blackness’ I thought, referring to a state that the coaches had encouraged us to push ourselves to, ‘I’ll come through the other side’. After ten more strokes I acknowledged ‘there is no other side’ and I just counted one stroke after another; body on auto pilot, mind refusing to give up, desperate for the finish line. It took me some minutes to recover enough to take in what Elise and I had achieved. We had come third and won an Olympic medal, something I had dreamed of for a long as I could remember. It was incredible to row over to the medal rostrum and receive our medals in front of a hugely supportive crowd, my family and friends.The Olympics was incredibly special. However, happily the story doesn’t end there. This year I raced in the quad at the World Championships in Gifu, Japan. We had an amazing race with the Germans, and came out on top by just 0.3 of a second to win and become World Champions. As far as I’m concerned the future looks bright.