Life After the Rio 2016 Paralympics by Paralympian Claire Cashmore
When I touched the wall in my final race at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, I knew that I wasn't quite ready to retire! I had always said after London that Rio would be my last games. Four is a good number and I thought it would be a good time to move into the 'real world'! That is what I thought but sport is extremely addictive. Busting a gut until I am sick in pursuit of sporting achievement gives me satisfaction like nothing else. Nothing can beat standing on the medal podium knowing you have given everything you have to get there.
After the games, my boyfriend Dave and I decided to go travelling around Brazil for a month. It was an amazing experience. We met lots of lovely, genuine people, visited beautiful sites and idyllic beaches. Our highlight was probably sleeping in a hammock in the middle of the Amazon. Whilst I loved every second, I felt a bit sad missing out on the parades in London, Manchester and the parties to celebrate our Paralympic and Olympic successes.
Many people have commented that my life must have changed dramatically after winning gold but its not the case at all. Post-games blues seem to affect everyone very differently and I struggled with the blues more after Rio than I have after London, Beijing or Athens. I think what made it easier in the past was having new and exciting challenges such as moving school or starting university, whereas this time I felt lost as to which direction my life was taking. Since the age of 12 I have been living in a 4 year cycle: everything geared towards that ultimate goal of racing at the Paralympic Games so when it is over, it feels like a massive anticlimax. I am a driven person and I like to have something to work towards. Suddenly there was nothing to work towards and I must admit that sometimes I would struggle to get out my pyjamas and do anything productive because there was no driving force. This is not helped by constant questions as to what your plans are and whether you are planning on getting a 'real job.' I soon realised this situation could become pretty dangerous so I started to set little goals and re-establish a routine. During this period, I received a phone call from British Swimming to tell me that I would be taken off funding as they felt that I did not show potential for Tokyo. This was a real kick in the teeth especially after having won Gold and Silver medals in Rio. Unfortunately sport is a cut-throat environment and if you are not showing the progression expected then the funding stops. It is an anxious moment when you realise that you are soon to have no income coming in to fund yourself but I was determined to make it work and to continue in sport. Corporate speeches and talks at schools has helped to fill that gap.
I had decided to take three months off to physically and mentally recharge the batteries. I also wanted to use this time to make sure that I wanted to continue. Despite all the knocks, I realised that I was desperate to get back in shape and start training again. The hunger is still there and I am determined to succeed once again. You can follow more of Claire's swimming journey on her Twitter and her website.