Winter Olympics 2014: Five British champions recall winning the ultimate prize

Christopher Dean, Amy Williams, Wilf O'Reilly, Rhona Martin and Robin Cousins remember the day they won gold

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Winter Olympics 2014: Five British champions recall winning the ultimate prize
Written By
Graham Wray and Ralph Jones

ROBIN COUSINS

Figure Skating, Lake Placid 1980

By the final day of the competition a lot of the American crowd had realised that their guy wasn't the favourite, so they got behind me rather than the East German or the Russian. So I felt an incredible warmth from people.

As for the routine, I have to be honest, I couldn’t even imagine qualifying for a junior men’s event today, let alone a senior event, with the material that I did back then. Although I don’t remember much of the day itself, I must have felt pretty relaxed. I know there’s footage of me sitting on a rolled-up red carpet, reading a magazine while others are pacing around backstage.

I skated first, and then left the building. So I had no idea — I still don’t to this day — how everybody else performed. It was my brother who came to find me to say that they needed me for the medal ceremony, and he was the one who told me I’d won the gold.


WILF O'REILLY

Speed Skating Short Track Demo Sport, Calgary 1988

On the first day of the Olympics, I fell in the 1500m. I was devastated and didn’t feel like competing in the 500m the next day. That night I was washing my gear, contemplating whether to call it a day. I was sat staring into the washing machine when I saw a gold medal right in the middle. I know it sounds crazy but I saw it as clear as day! I thought, “Right, no one’s going to take that medal away from me”. When I crossed the line a wave of elation came over me. I had flashbacks of skating as a child and the realisation that all my dreams had just come true.


RHONA MARTIN 

Curling, Salt Lake City 2002

I’ll never forget the yellow number four stone that won us gold. Even if I do keep the medal in the toilet roll cupboard! The final came down to the last stone that, as I was skip, was always going to be mine.

I wasn’t nervous. At that moment, it was just another game that I wanted to win. When the stone landed, it was just pure relief because we were all so mentally drained. Later Steve Redgrave, who was my hero, came up to me and said “Congratulations Rhona”. I couldn’t believe he actually knew my name. 


AMY WILLIAMS

Skeleton, Vancouver 2010

Before the Olympics I’d never won a race, but I always knew a win was in my grasp. The track was hard and fast and everyone was very worried about it. But I’d won silver on it in a World Cup race in 2009 so I knew it suited me. And in training I was getting the fastest times, which gave me even more confidence.

The competition was held over two days and I went to bed after the first day knowing that I was in the lead. But I didn’t want to heap any more pressure on myself so I avoided studying the other athletes’ times, thinking of anything but the prize.

In skeleton, you never know if you’ve won until you’re off the sled because it’s impossible to see a clock. So I didn’t know I’d won until I asked my coach. When he confirmed it my legs turned to jelly. But the overriding emotion was relief that I’d proved myself on the biggest stage of all.

It all seemed like a bit of a weird dream until I saw Clare Balding arriving to interview me. When you see a beaming Clare coming towards you, you know it’s all good.”


CHRISTOPHER DEAN

Ice Dancing, Sarajevo 1984

It was 14 February and a very early start. Our practice was at six in the morning. There were cleaners there, and they all downed tools to watch us — they applauded at the end, which was a nice little bonus! When I arrived at the arena again in the evening, I wanted to sit in the same spot in the communal changing room that I’d sat in every day for the previous ten days. I didn’t want change.

As I was putting on my skates, I got this really tired feeling — your body feels heavy, you feel a bit sluggish. I’ve come to realise since that it’s all part of the process. The adrenaline plateaus, but then it spikes again when you go out onto the rink.

I remember, stood there on the ice, that moment — we’re hand in hand, and it’s all connected. It’s all alive. We just do a final glance and squeeze of the hand. There’s no turning back — this is the time, this is the moment. We knew what we had to do — we just skated out into position, we were very centred and calm. But when I think about it now, it takes my breath away.

As we were doing the routine it was like we were in an altered state of consciousness. At the very end, there was so much excitement — but also huge relief. And then to see the full row of 6.0s — oh wow! When we stepped on to the podium and the medals were placed around our necks, with the national anthem playing — that is one of my proudest moments, ever.

Everything came together: the boy and the girl, the dancing, the romance, all wrapped up in this competitive sporting environment. It all came together on that perfect day.

Watch the Winter Olympics on BBC2 and BBC red button 301 and 302. 


 


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