Olympic Sprinter joins GREAT Britain team

18 August 2015

Sprinter Abi Oyepitan is used to racing fast on the track. She had no experience however in ocean racing until last month when she started sail training at our Gosport HQ.

The latest Olympic athlete to join the GREAT Britain team, Abi became one of the country’s best female sprinters when she reached the 2004 Athens Olympic finals – the first British female to achieve that result in twenty years. Following the performance however she sadly suffered an injury which bought her career to a halt.

Six years later Abi made an impressive comeback when she won a silver medal for England at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi in the 200m and a gold medal when she anchored the 4 x 100m relay team to victory. She continued her excellent form to reach the 200m semi-finals at the London 2012 Olympics, after which she retired from athletics.

Abi joins UFC fighter Dan Hardy, London 2012 rower Bill Lucas, Sochi 2014 Paralympic Champion ski guide Charlotte Evans, and former World Champion badminton player Nathan Robertson who will each complete a leg of the Clipper Race on board GREAT Britain.

Whilst all these athletes have achieved excellence in their individual sports, they, like 40 per cent of our crew members, had no previous sailing experience when they signed up for the Clipper Race and are facing the same, unfamiliar challenge of learning a new sport from scratch.

Here Abi tells us how her latest, and definitely most unexpected sporting comeback, is working out for her:

Name: Abiodun "Abi" Adesola Oyepitan
Age: 34
Occupation: Olympic athlete
Legs: The Australian Coast to Coast – Leg 4.
Team: GREAT Britain

You’ve just completed Level 2 training. How have you found the experience of learning to sail?

Level 2 training was a great experience for me. Sailing is so different from anything I’ve done before, which certainly threw me in Level 1. I feel Level 2 has given me more confidence in my sailing abilities and I really enjoyed my time on the boat. However I know there is so much more to learn.

As a professional sprinter – what have been some of the biggest challenges for you in adapting to this new sport?

I think the biggest challenge is the endurance aspect of sailing. Being a sprinter is all about being very dynamic and explosive for a short period of time. I've found having to sail for long periods at a time and being switched on and engaged is very difficult. However, it's something I was very aware of in Level 2 and I'm actively working on.

Are there any similarities between the two sports do you think?

I think in any competitive sport it's about a team working together to achieve a common goal. In athletics it's about working with your team to get you in the best shape of your life. In sailing it's about working with your crew to get the best out of the boat. Those skills I've learnt are definitely transferable between both sports - nothing can be achieved on your own!

You made a big career comeback between Athens and the London Olympics. Did you ever expect to represent Great Britain again?

After London 2012 I certainly thought I was done competing and never imagined I would ever be competing for Great Britain again, but it's a really goodt feeling and such a privilege to be giving an opportunity to represent my country one last time!

What are you most looking forward to about Leg 4 – the Australian coast to coast?

I’m really looking forward to the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race. I've heard it's a once in a lifetime experience, and again, I feel so privileged to be given this opportunity.

What do your friends and family think about what you are doing?

My siblings think I'm mad but also that it is an amazing opportunity. I haven't really told my parents, I'm going to break it to them gently so they get used to the idea.

What do you think you will bring to your team?I think I work well in a team setting and although I can be highly competitive and a commanding personality I feel I'm able to put people at ease and not be too overbearing.

The Clipper 2015-16 Race starts Sunday 30 August from St Katharine Docks, London. Want to get on board and join in the adventure? Click here to find out how.

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