Team GB catches up with London 2012 water polo vice captain, Angie Winstanley-Smith:
More than a year on from the London 2012 Olympic Games and many athletes have retired, some have taken a break and many have kept their head down and continued to train hard – Angie has done a bit of everything.
She travelled to France just days after the Games finished to continue her playing career with Olympic Nice and upon returning to London for September’s athletes’ parade, with the Games now just a memory, she had a lingering question in her head:
“What on earth has just happened to me?” thought the 27-year-old.
“The Olympics was my ultimate dream since the age of 10 but it was the most overwhelming thing ever and afterwards it all hit me – ‘what am I going to do now?’. September 2012 did not exist in my mind, everything was focussed on August.”
After delaying her studies at Manchester Metropolitan University for a year, she played for Nice during the autumn and worked on her CV for January’s British Olympic Association (BOA) Athlete Career Fair.
Having spoken to leading recruitment company, PageGroup, at the fair, within two weeks she had a job offer. Commitments in France meant she only took up her London-based recruitment consultant role in June but she is now in work and aims to transfer her university credits and study with the Open University.
“I went to the Fair with the intention of going back to university next year but this job came up,” she said.
“I’m not the type of person that does things by half and I knew I couldn’t commit longer term fully to either the water polo performance programme or my job, if I was doing both.”
Having made her international debut in the 2003 Barcelona World Championships though, she continued to train with the performance programme in order to play in July’s World Championships, also in Barcelona.
“I asked my boss what he thought and they were immediately really supportive, they knew what a big change in my life it was and said what a good note it could be to finish my career on in Barcelona,” she said.
After three losses in the group stages in Barcelona, Angie returned home from Spain and dived straight back into work – but any decision on retirement is currently on hold.
“It was really emotional for me. I was in bits after the last game, I couldn’t really talk to anyone,” she added.
“I left Barcelona and I was in work the next morning and a bit ‘woah what’s going on’.
“But 10 years ago I paid £150 out of my own pocket to go and we had three t-shirts, so in terms of where water polo has come in 10 years it is really remarkable and it’s nice to have been part of that cycle.”
Now fully immersed in work life she is excited by the challenges that lie ahead, and is showing no signs of losing her competitive edge.
“A lot of my decision on retirement will be based on how I settle with work and how successful I am – I’m an athlete, I like to be good at things,” said the London Olympian.