10 Aug 2012

What Team GB athletes get up to after winning medals

After years of strict diets and training regimes, Team GB’s athletes are now getting stuck into very different activities. Channel 4 News analysed their favoured pursuits before and after the Games.

What Team GB athletes get up to after winning medals

Being an Olympian takes years of dedication to your chosen sport. Days are filled with punishing training sessions and strange dietary regimes. Even on so-called “holidays”, athletes can never completely give up exercise for fear of being too far behind when training begins again.

It is no surprise then, that top athletes’ hobbies are focused primarily on sport. Channel 4 News analysed the activities that medallists named as their favourite hobbies, and while “socialising” was one of the most recurring words, many athletes named obscure sports as their preferred way to spend time.

There is climbing, snowboarding, motorbikes and boxing to name just a few, with tennis making a regular appearance. Then there are the more traditional “films, music and football” that are likely to be named as a “hobby” by most of the population. The graphic representation of British medallists’ hobbies above is based on their hobbies recorded publicly – either in the official Team GB records or in interviews.


But when it comes to the post-Olympics win, the representation of how medallists spend their time [below] looks very different. A (not particularly scientific) analysis of medallists’ Twitter feeds in the days after their win paints a picture of glamorous parties, meetings with royalty and a well-deserved glass of wine.

Medallists have swapped the wholesome “walking the dog” with secret gigs and getting “glammed up” for nights out in London. Many tweeted about meeting Kate Middleton and going to the Hyde Park live Olympic events. “Sleep” also got a big mention, as did “emotion”. We selected activity-related words and descriptions to get a sense of what athletes were up to.

What Team GB athletes get up to after winning medals

Both wordclouds created via Wordle

‘Two-week bender’?

Andy Banks, diving coach to Tom Daley and others, says he encourages his athletes to have some down time. “I think letting their hair down is fine,” he told Channel 4 News, but added that he doesn’t recommend a “two-week bender”.

“There is a time and a place for relaxation,” he adds. “They do still need to be a little bit mindful, but the odd glass of wine is probably quite a good thing.”

Team GB’s medal-winners have been catapulted into the dizzy heights of celebrity status and their post-win days have been spent partying in London. Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins and Tim Bailie attended a secret Stone Roses gig and rubbed shoulders with Paul Weller and the cast of This is England.

Rower Alan Campbell was snapped at Tiger nightclub, while James Foad met up with singer Alexandra Burke at Mahiki. The night of his storm to Olympic success, Bradley Wiggins tweeted pictures of himself drinking next to St Paul’s, and later added: “Well what a day, blind drunk at the minute and overwhelmed with all the messages.”

Project weight gain

Food is also a major part of the medallists’ celebrations. Judo champion Gemma Gibbons tweeted about tucking into Chinese, while rower Richard Chambers tweeted: “And so project ‘weight gain’ commences. Sponsored by McDonalds.”

“Someone like Tom [Daley], he’s not 18 yet, but he’s not really a clubbing, pubbing person. He’s more likely to go out for a meal,” says Mr Banks. “Tonia [Couch] – she will go out on the club scene, but often in the build up to a competition she’ll not be drinking.”

But despite the appearance of hitting London’s party scene hard, the next training session is unlikely to be far from their mind. Even after the Olympics has finished, divers have the under 18s world junior diving championships just a few months away in October.

“Athletes at the top level, their body is their machine,” adds Mr Banks. “They’re going to look after it to a certain extent.”