London: ALL eyes will be on the world’s greatest athletes when London 2012 gets under way next week.
But behind every great male Olympian and Paralympian is a very understanding woman.
These are the ladies who fit their lives – and often their diets – around a partner whose life is dedicated to winning.
Here, KATE JACKSON talks to five women who have sacrificed so much to help their men strike gold.
EMILY, 23, is the girlfriend of six-time London Marathon wheelchair champion David Weir, 33, who will be competing in the 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and marathon at the Paralympics.
The pair, from Wallington, south London, are parents to Mason, ten months, and are expecting a girl in October. She says:
“We met at a pub, I added him as a Facebook friend and he asked me out.
“On our first date I wasn’t sure what David would be capable of doing. I quickly realised he is very capable.
“David was born with a rare condition which means that he can’t move his legs but he has full feeling in them.
“He’s away a lot with training, sometimes around four weeks at a time. In a way, it’s good to have breaks from each other – you appreciate each other more when you’re together. I was working in a bank before I had Mason but it’s difficult to fit work in with a small child when David is away so much.
“I’m excited about London and a bit nervous. I think David’s excited, but he’s such a private person, he would never let on.
“David always thinks he hasn’t done enough training but he’s got a good chance of getting a medal.
“In Beijing he got two golds, a silver and a bronze. To win gold at a home Paralympics would be the proudest moment of his life.”
FLISS is engaged to rower Zac Purchase, who won gold in the lightweight double sculls at the Beijing Games.
Fliss, a project management consultant, and Zac, both 26, live in Wallingford, Oxon, with labradoodle Darcie and are getting married shortly after London 2012. She says:
“It’s nerve-racking watching Zac’s races. When you live with an athlete and you know how much pressure is on them, seeing them win a race is more relief than excitement.
“The strangest aspect of going out with an athlete is the random drugs test.
“We were due to go to a party one Friday and the testers turned up at 8pm. They stayed for three hours until Zac was able to produce a suitable sample.
“I had to ring my friend to say, ‘Zac’s got to pee into a pot, I’m sorry we’re not going to make your birthday’.
“Training does get in the way of wedding planning. Zac is away now for six weeks, so the final details are down to me. The main worry is his suit. Zac has to slim down to 70kg to race. That’s 11st – and he’s a muscular 6ft 1in.
“I’ve told him to put on weight after the Olympics. He’ll be scoffing Big Macs so he looks normal.
“My job between now and the Games is to put name labels on his kit – every item, even each sock and his flip flops.”
FORMER Sun Page 3 girl Peta lives with cyclist Mark Cavendish, 27, who hopes to win Team GB’s first gold medal in the men’s road race. Peta, 25, gave birth to their daughter Delilah Grace in April.
She also has a six-year-old son, Finnbar, from a previous relationship. She says:
“It was Mark’s first Father’s Day last month but as he is on such a strict diet regime, it wasn’t like I could cook a nice meal for him.
“‘Let’s have a low carb, high protein, no sugar meal’ doesn’t have quite the same appeal. I do tend to be the one who cooks at home but we’ve also had the Team GB nutritionist, Nigel, living with us for a couple of weeks.
“He’s been cooking for us all and making cookies with Finn.
“Mark has spoken about his OCD before. I know to put everything in straight lines in the fridge so he doesn’t have a meltdown. I’m not the tidiest person but he’s relaxed since Delilah came along.
“Mark has a very intense few weeks. Right now he’s involved in the Tour de France, where he’s defending the green jersey and competing as world champion.
“Six days after, he’s got the Olympic men’s road race. The route finishes on The Mall, outside Buckingham Palace. When Mark got his MBE, the Queen said, ‘You’re in the Olympics aren’t you? I think it finishes outside our house’. He told her, ‘You’ll have to hang out the window and cheer us on’.
“Everyone asks me if we go out cycling together. As if!
“Mark has had a lot of attention in the last year, especially after winning BBC Sports Personality Of The Year. But neither of us had particularly normal lives before.”
MICHELE, 41, is marrying wheelchair basketball star Simon Munn next year. They were childhood sweethearts but then split. Simon, 44, later lost his left leg in an accident on a railway line.
They got back together four years ago, have a three-year-old son Henri and live in Brighton. Michele, who works with adults with learning difficulties, says:
“Simon will admit that losing his leg is the best thing that ever happened to him.
“He worked on a building site before the accident and now he’s travelled the world and will be competing in his sixth Olympics.
“He is away training and competing a lot of the time, so I’m the one who runs the house.
“When he comes back shattered from a tournament, the last thing I’m going to do is give him a list of DIY jobs.
“I’m quite independent but it can get annoying when I have to go to yet another dinner party on my own. Our life works. If Simon was in a nine-to-five job we would drive each other mad.
“It is upsetting that he isn’t around for Henri. I’ll put the matches on TV and Henri will grab his own basketball and say, ‘I can do it too’.
“Plus, with Skype, it’s easy to keep in touch.”
SIAN, a primary school supply teacher, met 400m hurdle world champion and Team GB athletics captain Dai Greene five years ago, while she was studying in Cardiff.
Sian, 27, also a county hurdler, trains at Bath University, the same venue as 26-year-old Dai. They live in Bath. She says:
“If I wasn’t training as well there would be a good few hours each day when Dai and I just wouldn’t see each other.
“Our lives fit together nicely. We both eat healthily, I understand the commitment it takes for Dai to get where he is – and it’s quite handy getting advice from a world champion.
“When Dai has a bad day our Hungarian Vizsla puppy Buzz helps take his mind off things.
“I went to watch Dai at the European Championships in Barcelona in 2010, where he won gold, but I didn’t go to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games or South Korea last year for the World Championships – he won gold at both. As it was, I couldn’t eat for a week ahead of the Worlds as I was so nervous I was pacing around.
“Good luck in London if you’re sitting next to me.”
BDST: 1447 HRS, July 19, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
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