Ashleigh Moolman Pasio reports from the Olympics

My Olympic Experience

As a young girl, my favourite movie was the 1978 film International Velvet by Bryan Forbes. The film follows the story of a young girl, Sarah Brown, who overcomes life’s adversities to fulfill her dream of competing at the Olympic Games. In the film she represents Great Britain in the Equestrian Three Day event and helps her country win the team competition. I watched the film many times over
and it inspired me. I dreamed of one day representing my country at the Olympic Games. Today that dream is realised and my Olympic experience has been somewhat surreal. The London Olympic Games has been everything I dreamt it to be and more!

The Olympic Village

The Village is a little world of it’s own, equipped with everything one could possibly imagine, from gyms, to hairdressers, to dentists, to any kind of food you can possibly imagine.

The most impressive of all is the Food Hall. It is enormous and caters for just about all tastes and ethnic groups, with a selection of food from China, India, Africa, the America’s, Europe and of course Great Britain to name a few.

Although the huge selection of food can make meal choices rather difficult, once you have finally decided what to eat, you never know who you might end up sitting next to. During my stay in the Village I had the opportunity of dining with the likes of Lleyton Hewitt and Sir Chris Hoy to name a few.

Walking around the Village amongst a select field of the World’s best athletes is a surreal experience in itself. You never quite know which famous sports star you might walk past next, but I must admit; in real life, it is rather hard to recognize them.

Our accommodation

Team South Africa stayed in an apartment block called Heritage in the Olympic Village. Team South Africa consists of 125 athletes, small in comparison to the bigger nations like the United States of America, which boasts a total of 529 athletes. As a result, South Africa shared an apartment block with Spain and the Dominican Republic.

My teammates, Robyn de Groot, Joanna Van De Winkel and I shared a two bedroomed apartment, equipped with an on suite bathroom and a small lounge. Our apartment was very comfortable and we quickly made ourselves at home in the Village.

Team South Africa was lucky enough to be located very centrally in the Village. We were situated about 500m from the Main Dining Hall, the Gym, the Village Centre and the Village Hospital. We were also lucky enough to have a little Snack Shack just outside out apartment block entrance. These little Snack Shacks were sporadically placed around the village and had a great selection of ready made sandwiches, salads, muffins, fruit and of course, great coffee.

The Road Race – Sunday 29 July

The height of excitement, hard work and commitment, and the height of disappointment, all in the space of 4 hours! That sums up my Olympic Road Race experience!

Unfortunately no medal for South Africa at the London 2012 Games, but in keeping with the Spirit of the Games, we gave it all on the day! We fought hard in tough conditions, both Robyn and Jo
encountered much bad luck, crashing at critical times in the race, and I’m proud of our efforts!

I felt strong on the day, I raced hard up Box Hill and I thought I had everything under control, until a sneaky break slipped off the front on the final Box Hill descent. Marianne Vos, Lizzie
Armitstead, Olga Zabalinskaya and Shelley Olds got away.

Despite a huge effort by Germany and Italy to chase, the break away was never caught. Shelley Olds punctured out of the break, Mariaane Vos won, Lizzie Armitstead finished 2nd and Olga Zabalinskaya 3rd. I finished 16th in the chasing bunch 27 seconds down on the winner.

The Olympic Women’s Road Race was a great display of women’s cycling at it’s best! A hard, aggressive race and despite the weather conditions, the support out on the London roads was absolutely amazing! I have never experienced such huge crowds supporting a women’s race before. The roads were packed from start to finish, a first for women’s cycling.

The Time Trial – Wednesday 1 August

I finished 24th in the Olympic Individual Time Trial. I had no big expectations; my intention was to use the Time Trial to gain experience for future Olympic Games. Time Trial at this level is a very specialist event. I didn’t do any specific preparation for the Olympic Time Trial, and unfortunately I suffered mechanical issues on the day.

Taking on women who have spent four years and many trips to the wind tunnel to prepare for this event alone, was always going to be a challenge. I have lots of room for improvement and I will use the experience gained in the Time Trial to move forward in a positive way.

Moving Forward

My London 2012 experience has been filled with a whirlwind of emotions, from crying one moment, to laughing the next. Although there have been many ups and downs over the past two weeks, I’ve done my best to soak up the vibe of the Games. What a wonderful experience it has been, I have met some amazing people and at the end of it all, I’m left overwhelmed by a feeling of excitement and thankfulness. I feel inspired!

The feeling of disappointment has quickly been replaced by a feeling of anticipation for what the future holds. I’m confident I have the strength and the talent to medal at the Olympic Games and my Olympic dream is still very much alive. I now have one Olympic Road Race and Time Trial experience in the bank and I look forward to Rio 2016!

A big lesson learnt from my London 2012 experience is that an Olympic medal requires a long-term plan. It takes four years of hard work, commitment and national support to realise this dream. Planning for Rio 2016 has already begun and I won’t give up until I have fulfilled my dream of an Olympic podium.

I’m thankful for this amazing opportunity I’ve been blessed with and the wonderful support and encouragement I’ve received to get this far. Thanks for the ongoing support and encouragement! London 2012 would not have been possible without every one of you! Onwards and upwards to Rio 2016!

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