Fit and healthy indeed. Greg won one of four gold medals that went to British athletics competitors. We asked him what it actually felt like to win an Olympic gold medal.
“That’s probably the hardest question there is to answer because there are no words that can genuinely describe the emotion that you feel. In fact, you seem almost to go through every emotion you’ve probably ever felt in your life all kind of rolled into one. It just hits you, and everything you’ve ever dreamed of and wanted… suddenly you’ve got it. It’s a strange thing because ultimately my dreams have been of winning an Olympic gold medal. The other things that come with it are amazing, but that was what it was always about. But then you’ve achieved it, so what do you do with yourself? You’ve sacrificed everything and now it’s happened, but it’s a strange thing that your brain can’t really comprehend what’s actually going on. So, I mean, obviously, complete joy… It’s a massive relief as well because it sort of proves that all the hard work you’ve been doing has worked and it’s finally paid off and it’s done. It’s a feeling I’ve only ever had once and I doubt I’ll ever have again. It really was incredible.”
However, it wasn’t long before Greg had another experience that rivalled his Olympic win for intensity.
“Getting the MBE was pretty amazing. I was probably more nervous about that than I was going into the Olympic park. At the end of the day, I jump into sand – I mean, that’s my living – and I found myself standing in a room with people who… For example, one bloke I was speaking to has fostered 22 children over 50 years. He changed their lives. He has made an incredible impact directly upon people. What an amazing person. And I stood there thinking, Well, I just jumped into sand, had a good competition and won. I sort of felt a little bit inferior.
“There I was in the most iconic place in the world about to meet probably the most famous figure in the world, and I’ve got to go and have a chat with her as she gives me a medal. I was completely and utterly bricking it, mate. It was a weird, weird scenario to be in. But it was great. The Queen said to me that the profile of athletics has changed a lot, which was fantastic to hear. We compete a lot in the summer but, ultimately, not a lot of it is shown on TV. It’s not been a high-profile sport, so to hear her say that was encouraging.
“It’s just a fantastic day. The dresses, the old school morning suits and top hats… It was a great added extra to what had already been an amazing summer.”
However, now his trip to the palace is over and done with, Greg has work to do. The next big competition is never as far away as it may seem.
“They’re always at the back of your mind. Ultimately, the Olympics are what defines your legacy as an athlete in the general public’s eyes, so you’re always thinking about the next Olympics. As it stands now I’ve got a couple more championships, the Commonwealth Games and a couple of Europeans all before that. You can’t be blase about these other events because they are all hugely important.”
Success in international competition obviously means more travel and more time away from home. Does Greg get homesick?
“You’re surrounded by friends and there’s always the phone and Skype, but I do miss my two dogs, my two labradors. My parents look after them. They live with me when I’m at home. It was kind of a rash move to get two dogs; I didn’t think about the fact that I’m away a lot. But then, my mum and dad get on really well with them. They get treated really well at my parents’ house. They get fattened up. My mum tells me how my dad always gives them a bit of his breakfast. I have to put them on a bit of a diet when I get back. I think when they see me they think, Oh, no! Have to go on the diet again!”
Interview: Angela Banh
Story: Rick Cadger
Photography: Stan Thompson
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