In her third exclusive column for The Mixed Zone, European champion Sarah Barrow explains why she has retired from full-time sport and looks ahead to a life on terra firma rather than on a 10-metre diving platform
Twenty-seven is a strange age to ‘retire’, but that’s exactly what I’ve done.
At my retirement party, I asked for the sign to say ‘Sarah’s finished diving party’ rather than ‘Sarah’s retirement party’ because I didn’t want passers-by to think that 65-year-olds were dancing to Ariana Grande!
I had a fantastic time at the Olympic Games in Rio, but it had been a long trenching-through-mud-type journey and I was grateful to be on the plane as part of Team GB. I knew that potentially this would be my last competition, so I tried to make each day an enjoyable experience. Most were, but some were a struggle. Unfortunately, my shins – which have been a long-term problem caused by stress fractures – were not as good as they were before leaving for the Games and made a couple of days a little less enjoyable.
The atmosphere was buzzing in the Village. It was incredible to wake up and open the curtains to the sun shining above the green mountains. This was the picture on competition day. I was excited about competing but I felt like I had waited an age for it to come around! Diving is a funny sport, where at times, our team have been puzzled at why the competition didn’t go well, and I was disappointed in Rio not to progress through the preliminary stage in the 10-metre platform. But sometimes there isn’t a stand-out reason. It is frustrating that all the hard work I put in throughout the year wasn’t shown off at the Olympic Games.
However, despite retiring at 27, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve crammed a lot in. I’ve been to two Olympic Games and I am the only British female to win European individual gold in the 10-metre platform. I have also been part of the only female synchro team to win two world medals and a European title, as well as holding the existing British record. In addition, I’ve been to more than 20 countries – many of them multiple times – and made friends in every corner of the world.
I have also had the pleasure of working with amazing coaches in British Diving. Andy Banks has been my coach for 11 years, and even during the four years I was training in Leeds he was still on the other end of the phone. I don’t feel the coaches receive enough praise from the top – we produce great athletes because we have great coaches! When medals are achieved it is a collective effort; essential support comes from the team behind the team.
I wouldn’t have been able to go through three years of injury problems without Andy’s amazing patience and support. Ady Hinchliffe and Edwin Jongejans were particularly supportive this year when I needed treatment in Leeds for weeks. Edwin, in particular, took on possibly the hardest couple of months of training in my career. I achieved my dreams because I worked hard, but also because technically our coaches are world-class.
The decision to retire came fairly easily as I had been injured for three years. It was a difficult injury to overcome, and from March this year I worked so hard and surpassed expectations just to get on the plane to Rio. By the end of the Games, I was exhausted mentally and physically. After speaking to already-retired athletes I knew the time had come to call it a day. I was happy to do so because I was proud of what I had achieved – and most of the time when I wasn’t expected to, which makes it all the more special.
So what is different now? I can lie in bed in the mornings during the week, have dessert after dinner, I can go out and have a drink, have my nails done and book holidays and parties throughout the year. The things that seem normal and not that exciting to non-athletes, are fantastic when you’ve spent years in training.
At the moment, I am on one big UK holiday. But it can’t last long, I have to get back into a routine. I have tried several different fitness classes; HIIT (high intensity interval training) and barre class are brilliant ways to improve cardio, strength and core fitness.
I am the ‘yes girl’ now, networking, looking for my next passion. I am not yet sure what it is yet, but do I know that I am excited about the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This article was written by Sarah Barrow. Sarah’s latest articles.