SO much time and effort went in to my preparation for the Olympics; I thought I was perfectly prepared for it.
I wasn't. Nothing could have prepared me for how I felt when I walked out from behind the curtain into Wembley Arena for my first match.
Physically, I was in the best shape I could have been but, having never played in an Olympic Games before, never mind a home Olympics, I had no experience to draw upon, no way to cope with the nerves that hit me when I walked on court that first time. I was playing an opponent who was lower ranked than me, so there was an element of expectation that I would win my first match, but I was taking nothing for granted. There is no certainty in an Olympic Games – so many factors can have an influence over the result, most of all the pressure. I was not sure at all how I was going to cope with that. Thankfully, as the match progressed I settled down and I managed to play well and win, and so was able to relax slightly and enjoy the support of the crowd.
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My second group match was against Sayaka Sato, the top Japanese player and the No.12 seed, who was expected to beat me comfortably. My nerves were not quite as pronounced for this match– my status as underdog had a calming effect – and in losing in three close sets I played one of the best matches of my career. While I was, of course, disappointed to lose, I feel like I gave everything I had and I was beaten by a better player. I could have done no more and that tempers my disappointment slightly.
Before the Games there was a lot of talk about the impact that the home crowd could have on Team GB and I feel so lucky to have had the privilege of playing in front of a crowd of 6000 people with hardly an empty seat in the arena, and have them almost exclusively cheering for me. I think it's pretty safe to say that I'm not used to that. It's been amazing to have had that opportunity which so few athletes get to experience. I only wish that I could have taken it in more during my matches.
When I am focused I tend to go into my own little bubble and block everything out, so it was only when I was walking off court that I was able to fully absorb how loud and supportive the crowd were. I know I'll never experience anything like that again, so I'm really grateful for it.
Being part of Team GB has been such an honour and a thrill, particularly after the long, hard year I went through to qualify for the team. For someone who is definitely not a Unionist, I feel really proud to walk around the athletes village with my GB kit on, which is something I'll never do again. It's also strange seeing Chris Hoy sitting in the dining hall eating lunch the day after he's won his fifth gold medal and as I write this I look out the window of our flat and I can see the Olympic Stadium.
After the struggle of qualifying and the concern when I had a serious knee operation in October and thought that I would never get here, being an Olympian has been everything I hoped it would be and the fact that I performed well just makes it even sweeter. I think it is unlikely that I will have many more weeks which I have enjoyed quite as much as this last one.
I will remain in the village until the closing ceremony and so will spend my time going to watch other sports, sampling the junk food that I have deprived myself of for the last year and being a tourist.
I enjoyed last week, as a competitor. I think I'm going to enjoy this week, too.