I’m seriously missing the Olympics. There are no hot men in swimming trunks on my telly and I’ve got no idea what Kate Middleton is up to.
What an epic 17 days. I was immensely proud to be a Brit, but also proud to be a tall woman; events like the volleyball and rowing were full of incredibly fit and talented ladies using their long limbs to their advantage.
I screamed a lot when Katherine Grainger (6ft with size 10 feet) and Anna Watkins (6ft with size 9 feet) took gold in the Women’s Double Sculls final, so I was particularly honoured to meet them at Long Tall Sally’s flagship store on Monday. Have a read of our chinwag…
So, tell us how the tie-up with LTS came about…
AW: I got in touch because it’s the shop that I shop in all the time, and I know it’s the same for a lot of the other rowing girls so I thought it was a good match.
You’re all very tall on the team aren’t you?
KG: Yeah, the tallest is 6’4.
I’m 27, am I slightly too old to start rowing now?
KG and AW: No.
Even to get Olympic Gold?
KG and AW: No, really!
A lot of ATTT readers have been really inspired by the tall female Olympians… how can they get involved in sport?
AW: Sporting Giants recruits for several sports. There’s definitely still recruitment for rowing going on.
KG: They look for athletes over a certain height and wingspan. There are little meetings all over the country – they use different machines to test your potential.
That’s where I might fall short…
AW: No, the tests are designed to pick up natural ability…
KG: They don’t expect you to come fully-formed as an Olympian. Because that can be taught. The really nice thing is that there’s a range of sports that they’ll target you towards. It could be volleyball, it could be basketball, and they then guide you towards what you’d be good at.
When did you start rowing?
KG: Both of us started at university. I did a lot of sport before that, but never anything at top level. I just loved it, trying loads of different sports rather than focusing on one. I genuinely fell into it at university because someone said “You’ve got the right height and build for it.” Rowing is absolutely geared towards people with height and long levers.
Obviously the last two weeks have been crazy… what have you guys been up to? Have you managed to see your postbox?!
AW: I managed to see mine on Friday!
It’s gotta be those quirky things that are really exciting…
AW: It is. I grew up in a little town and everybody there is just thrilled to be a part of the Olympics, and they feel like there’s something special going on in the town and they’re part of the whole excitement. Loads of people are having their photo taken next to it, it’s really lovely.
Aaaah… and you get a stamp as well don’t you?
KG: Yeah, that’s the amazing thing about the home Olympics. We knew the crowd support would be so different being home games, but what we didn’t think was what would continue afterwards. This incredible enthusiasm to do anything to do with the Olympics. Things like the Royal Mail putting out our postbox within hours of us winning… the postal stamp was out the next day… it’s amazing how the whole country has embraced it and wanted to celebrate it. Because things like the postbox go to your own town, it then covers the whole of Britain so it’s not just London-focused.
Were you quite surprised by how much it took the country by storm?
KG: I think it was almost perfect timing, you almost felt the country was ready for something to really lift the spirits. Yes the build up had been: Will the traffic be too much? Will there be enough tickets? Will the Weather behave? We weren’t sure if we could really host it as well as we should. I genuinely feel from the moment of the opening ceremony, when everyone just sat back and went “Woah, we can do this well”, we then spent two weeks just celebrating incredible achievements and really iconic moments. I think people found it far more emotional than they ever thought. I don’t think any of us could have predicted how the nation would embrace it. Obviously we’re all about the Olympics — it’s our life — but to see other people get it was really special.
Are you thinking Rio?
KG: At the moment we’re still thinking London! We’re not finished with celebrating 2012.
You’ve got to beat Steve Redgrave though…
KG: It’s quite hard to beat Steve Redgrave!
Very true. Talking about the most important thing then… Fashion. Obviously you’ve gone through lots of Olympic games not being sponsored by LTS. Have you had trouble in the past getting activewear to fit the rowing team?
AW: Well, clothes in general really. We spend a lot of time in lycra which fortunately is made for us but yeah… jogging bottoms that don’t flap around your ankles, and really nice snuggly jumpers that are properly long enough so they don’t finish half-way down your arms. Everybody’s so happy when they get something that fits like that and they just live in it. I’ve been wearing my LTS jumper all the time because it’s just nice to wear stuff that fits really nicely.
Do you like to glam up with heels when you’re off-duty?
AW: We’ve done so much fun stuff over the last two weeks, it’s been brilliant. I’ve worn more dresses in the last two weeks than I have in the last two years.
Have you had loads of glam celebrity events and parties to go to?
KG: It’s a whole range, from really nice local stuff at home or schools right up to a red carpet in the Westend tonight. It’s the full extreme. What’s nice is we’re so comfortable and confident in our sports-kit and that’s what we know, and you step out of that world and think “what do we wear now?”, and that’s what’s nice about being at Long Tall Sally. They’ve got the full range, so we can be put in casual-wear and go round our local schools and we can look great and comfortable, and we can step out onto the red carpet and we’ve got an outfit for that.
That’s true… unlike other athletes you’ve got a whole range of different clothes at your fingertips…
AW: Exactly, if we’re going to do a talk to a business we’ve got genuinely smart outfits…
KG: And what’s genuinely true is that it’s really really comfortable. When we’re working with [LTS], it’s not been like “You must wear that”, it’s been “Are you comfortable, does it look good?” and I think that’s where you get your confidence. That’s what makes you start to look good.
Have you got any favourite picks from the collection?
AW: All of the bodycon stuff is really flattering…
Yeah, when you’ve done the Olympics bodycon is really flattering…
AW: Noooo! I know so many people who’ve got those dresses, my mum’s got one and I think everybody looks better in that than they expect to. I’ve got the pink one and the spotty one, and I can see LTS has got more colours now so I’m eyeing them up…
KG: What’s really nice is that in the team everyone is different heights, but everyone’s quite differently built as well… long legs or short legs and longer bodies, and different widths, and genuinely everyone’s tried the different dresses and everyone looks good in them. That gives you a lot of confidence as an athlete — to step out in non-sporting kit and feel really good with how you look.
AW: It’s because of the fit… we’ve all grown up wearing things we probably shouldn’t, and then you get to the realisation that you’re gonna look the best in something that’s cut for the size that you are. What LTS do brilliantly is they take stuff that’s in the highstreet and on the catwalk and they make it into something that tall people can wear so you feel like you can wear anything and it’s all in the shop.
What about being tall, did you like it when you were growing up?
AW: I liked it until I was about 14… I was taller than my big sister, that was really fun because everyone thought I was the bigger sister. I got treated older than I was and probably got away with things I wouldn’t have got way with because everyone thought I was older than I was. But then I went through this stage where all the boys my own age were a lot smaller because they hadn’t grown yet, and when you’re 13/14 you can’t go out with older boys quite yet… so there were a couple of years of feeling awkward.
It’s the dancing at school discos isn’t it…?
AW: Yeah, that was the worst stage, and you’re so fashion conscious and that age and you can’t get the clothes that everyone else is wearing. Once I’d got to 16/17 when you can date boys a little bit older, then it was fine.
KG: Yeah, it’s always a confidence thing. I think everyone goes through a stage where they’re not entirely comfortable. It could be a height thing, it could be how you look… all those things. You also don’t want to stand out from the crowd.
You just want to conform…
KG: Yeah you do, and I think that’s incredibly normal, and I think when you do get a bit more confidence in your own identity, then you actually really embrace it. It’s probably later at school or university age where being tall gives you such an advantage. I do think for some reason you get taken seriously, you have confidence, you have authority when you stand well and hold yourself well. I really love being tall.
Do you have any advice for women who are less confident about their height?
AW: People are going to notice you anyway, they’re going to notice you looking bad if you’re slouching and trying to pretend that you’re not tall. So you’ve got to absolutely go with it and turn heads the right way and stand up tall. Pile your hair on top, wear heels and feel good.
KG: A lot of people would love to have height because you do make an impact. That’s why as an athlete it helps… standing well and walking well gives people an incredibly good impression of you. It might be something that takes a little while to grow into but it should give you a lot of inner confidence, and you do turn heads.
(Yes, I had to sling it round my neck. And everyone on the telly was right… they are flipping heavy…)
Anna and Katherine are seriously lovely girls. And very down-to-earth too (Anna was using her medal as a tea coaster when I walked in). Looking for a fabulous tall role model? You could do worse than an Olympian…