Olympic spirit - When athlete becomes fan
We spoke to 28-year-old Nichola Osbourne, a junior doctor from Lymington ("home of a new golden postbox, thanks to Ben Ainslie!") and a member of Team GB's initial 20-player volleyball squad for London 2012.
Nichola Osbourne did not make the final cut for the women's volleyball Olympic team selection – but that has not stopped her from being actively involved in Britain's first ever women's volleyball team.
Besides watching all the events on TV, Nichola has been supporting her team-mates at Earls Court and has also attended many beach volleyball games, plus one hockey match at the Riverbank Hockey Arena...
Hi Nichola, tell us about your involvement in Team GB's women's volleyball team.
I was in the initial squad and made the last 16 in June. But it was close-margins and I lost out about five weeks prior to the Games. It took about two weeks for me to get my head around it but I then went back to Sheffield to continue supporting the girls' preparations. It was a really eye-opening process to go through. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but I feel I have a positive perspective from it too.
What has the atmosphere been like at the events you have attended?
When Team GB competed in both volleyball arenas it was unbelievable – although it was a slightly different atmosphere at Earls Court from Horse Guards Parade. The stand is much closer and steeper at Horse Guards so the beach volleyball becomes much more intense. However, the 15,000 people at all three venues made a phenomenal noise. Just being in the stands was inspiring – but to watch British athletes, who are both team-mates and friends, was an overwhelmingly proud moment.
How were your seats?
Varied. I sat front row, back row, to the side. All gave a slightly different perspective but all were great views to be honest.
Are you friends with beach volleyball players? Will they come to watch the regular volleyball games too?
Absolutely! My best mate plays on the beach - we all used to train together when we were younger, playing both beach and indoors before we specialised. The two sports have got the same skill set but are very different types of game. There's always some friendly banter and rivalry between indoors and beach players, but ultimately we all support each other, both on and off the court.
Have you seen any other events?
I went to see Japan play China in hockey - it was the match that saw GB definitely qualify to the semis. A mate had tickets so I went with him and was so glad I did. The Olympic Park is just amazing. It was definitely a different experience to Earls Court and it was so impressive to see the Velodrome. Looking ahead, I'll be watching the volleyball finals - but that's it for live events, unfortunately. It's tough to get more tickets.
What have you most enjoyed during the Games as a fan?
Embracing the atmosphere. Watching my all time heroes compete in front of a home crowd. Seeing the public get excited in the parks as athletes bring home the golds. The list is long!
How different are the experiences of competitors and fans during the Olympics?
Very. As a competitor I would be solely focused on the job at hand, taking in some of the atmosphere but only in ways that it would help performance. There are obvious bonuses to being an athlete involved in the Games, but as a fan you get to enjoy as much of the atmosphere as you like, as and when you want to.
Do athletes generally watch other events closely?
I think so, again so long as it does not affect performance. Some people find watching others compete fires them up, others find it a distraction or too emotional. I think a lot of athletes take advantage, after their events are completed, to watch the games.
How proud does London 2012 make you feel?
Exceptionally proud. I am proud to be part of a squad making history as the first British volleyball team in the Olympics, and to have won a game. I am proud of the immensely hard work that I know has been put in by us and many athletes over four years. I'm proud to watch friends in all sports compete and mostly just proud of how the Games are going and the support everyone is giving. What a great time it is to be British!
Finally, what are your plans once the Games finish?
Well, I retire from professional volleyball and return to work as a junior doctor. I started earlier this month and it's a complete career change from being an athlete but am excited to finally get going, after delaying somewhat. London 2012 has re-inspired me to get into Sport and Exercise medicine. Hopefully with everyone buying bikes now, after this phenomenal Olympic success, we'll see an inspired healthier public, striving for great things.