With podium places at European Cup events and flashes of brilliance in the ITU Dextro Series, it seems there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel for Vanessa Raw after some injury-plagued seasons.
We caught up with the adidas sponsored athlete to talk art, being dropped by the BTF and appearing on Masterchef. And in fine form she was too…
220: What are you up to right now?
Vanessa: I’m actually taking photos of footballers for an art project that I’m doing for charity. It’s for an art and sport project that ties in with London 2012.
And what footballers are you shooting?
Er… I’m doing Hollie Avil and Alistair Brownlee too! I’ve already painted them and I’m hopefully trying to shoot Chris Hoy as well. But the hardest bit is trying to get everyone to be photographed.
Is that for your fine art degree?
It’s for a part of that, yes. I’m in my final year now and my degree show is in June. Fingers crossed it balances with tri, but I’m covering myself a little thin at the moment because I’m planning to do a lot more racing around the world.
I’m hoping to do Israel [the ITU Eilat European Premium Cup] and I’ve got other European Cup races planned because I need to get the points to enter the ITU World Championships next season.
It’s difficult because I have to fund it all myself now because I’m not on the BTF Programme. I wasn’t surprised [with being dropped] because they’ve supported me for a long time whilst I was injured and I needed some amazing results in 2009 to be able to stay on it.
Is there a shake up at the BTF, what with Jodie Stimpson moving on also?
There have been a lot of changes. Basically, if you’re on the programme you have to be based in a centre like Loughborough or one of the BTF’s satellite centres. If you want to train abroad then you have to choose not to have the funding.
Was 2009 a tough year for you?
This year was better than previous years because I started to come back at the end of the season. But in the winter I got some trapped nerves that took a long time to diagnose that really hampered my training. My bike and my swimming has been in great shape but it’s my running that’s been struggling.
You looked good in the Madrid ITU Worlds race until the run.
I know [laughs]. That was the trapped nerve playing up. But I feel in a completely better place right now, I haven’t had any more nerve problems and I feel very strong. I’ve just had a break so I don’t know how I’m going to race this month even! But I think racing when you’re not in good shape is a good thing to do, mentally it can help you got prepared for the main races in the season.
Three podium places in European Cup races at the end of the season suggests things were clicking into place.
It was starting to come together and I raced those back-to-back. I was ill for one and still came second so I was pleased. It was the first time I’ve enjoyed racing in about three years! I was going to prove what I could so and enjoy myself.
The off-season has arrived at the wrong time!
Yeah, but I hold my fitness well so I should be alright. I feel like I should be good for next summer anyway.
This year the likes of Hollie Avil, Sophie Coleman, Jodie Swallow and co have all done exceptionally well. Has that been tough to see from the sidelines?
No, I love seeing other Great Britons doing well. I have more of a team attitude really and I don’t feel as competitive with other Great Britons. Especially when Helen [Tucker] did well in the World Championships as she also had to work her way back from injury and start back at the bottom to make it to the top again. That was very inspiring to see. Jodie Swallow has also dealt with injuries, she’s a very strong athlete and that [her ITU Long Distance World title] was great to see too.
And what’s this we hear about hypnotherapy?!
[Laughs] Oh god, I wish I’d never mentioned it. This is brought up all the time now! At the start of the year I tried it because I’m very interested in the mind and body but, actually, I couldn’t be hypnotised! So I looked down the route of almost hypnotising myself. But, seriously, I was just looking at just staying strong in my head and controlling my thoughts. Previously I’d been thinking very negatively and I became aware of all the negative things I used to think.
We saw you on Masterchef! That lamb and asparagus looked good…
I purposely didn’t watch it! I thought I’d been cut out but I had people telling me that I’d been on. I heard it wasn’t too bad but I’d been very embarrassing on the set as I was nothing but giggles! Although they did put in my one negative quote all day when I said something was “too sweet!”
And working with adidas gives you the opportunity to do things like that?
I’ve had amazing support and wouldn’t be able to do this without them. I tend to say yes to all the opportunities, the benefit of being injured a lot means that I’m always available for them!