Gold Medal Flapjack, Silver Medal Life
The autobiography of an unlikely Olympian
by Alison Mowbray
Rowing is one of only two Olympic sports where you win by being the fastest at going backwards. We are a rather strange breed. Being an Olympian was not my first choice of career, or even my second. For starters I wasn’t even any good at sport, which seemed to be a prerequisite for going to the Olympics. I was going to be a doctor, a teacher, a Blue Peter presenter or maybe even the first female submarine commander. I was a cook, a musician, a scientist and a really rather awkward child. Then at 18 I discovered rowing. And for the next 15 years I’m not sure I had a choice anymore. You don’t choose to go to the Olympics. You lay out everything you have and let the Olympics take it – no deals, no bargains, no questions asked, no hope of return. You accept that maybe it will be enough and the Olympics will choose you… and maybe it won’t. If you thought about the number of things outside your control between yourself and your dream you’d never start. If you thought about them every day, you’d have to stop. So, you don’t do that. You just think about the things you can do, the things you can control and you start doing them and then keep doing them until you get there or until control is forcibly wrested from you. That’s what you do. That is this story. This is a Silver medal life of achievement, addiction, alcoholism, anorexia and Alzheimer's. But a Gold medal story of passion and perseverance, and not letting anything or anybody get between yourself and your dream. And of what happens next. Because what do you do when you’ve achieved everything you ever wanted to achieve.
This started out as a recipe book with a few stories from my life, and then the story took over. It also became really important to me to write this as a history of British womens' rowing. Because I don't think many people on the outside really understand how incredibly selfmotivated and tough us women have had to be to pull ourselves up, often in defiance of the first fledgling attempts at some sort
of system, to that first Olympic medal in Sydney 2000 and 12 years later those first London 2012 Golds.
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