The wife of Team GB’s most successful Olympic canoeist has said she felt a sense of “helplessness” not being in Tokyo and is more excited about welcoming him home than she is about his latest medal.
Liam Heath, 36, from Guildford, won bronze in the K1 200m, his fourth Olympic medal after successes at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
His wife Emily – who he met as a teenager when they worked at TGI Fridays – said she is “desperate” to get him home after almost five weeks apart, adding that she is proud of her husband’s success.
She said she “can’t wait” to see him, adding: “I just want him home now.”
Ms Heath, 37, said it has been a long time apart, telling the PA news agency: “I’m more excited about getting him home than the fact that he’s got another medal.
“That moment is going to be so much more because we’re just desperate to get him back.”
Asked if she will greet him when he touches down at Heathrow, she said: “Yeah, you couldn’t stop me, honestly.”
The couple have a three-year-old daughter called Sarah, and Ms Heath said: “The thing I’m most looking forward to is Liam and Sarah being reunited.”
Ms Heath said she wishes she was in Tokyo with her husband, explaining: “There’s a real helplessness when you’re stuck this far away, and especially with the time difference as well which then limits your ability to have contact anyway.”
She said when you are at events in person with all the other parents and family members, there is “a real camaraderie” which has been missed this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Ms Heath said not being there makes you feel “unimportant”, and she “struggled” seeing dignitaries who had flown in for the opening ceremony.
“That was quite hard to watch, because you suddenly feel like you’re so unimportant to the situation.
“But actually you’re one of the most important people in the situation because you’re the support behind the athlete.
“It’s been tough not to be there.”
Elsewhere on Thursday, cyclist Matt Walls, 23, from Oldham, won gold in the men’s omnium to deliver Great Britain’s first title in the velodrome of the Tokyo Games.
Teenage diver Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix, daughter of First Dates TV personality Fred Sirieix, was delighted with her Olympic debut after finishing seventh in the women’s 10 metre platform event.
The 16-year-old said: “I am so happy. I was speaking to my family because there is an Athlete Moment screen and I started crying. I am very, very proud of where I came.”
Her father tweeted: “‘The important thing in life is not the triumph but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well’ – Pierre de Coubertin #Olympics.”
Holly Bradshaw, 29, from Euxton in Lancashire, made history by becoming the first British athlete to win a pole vault medal at an Olympic Games with the bronze.
Her mother Debbie Bleasdale told PA: “I actually feel a little bit numb because obviously we’ve been going through this for 10/12 years with Holly going to competitions, and certainly since the Olympics, major competitions.
“And you always hope, but you never expect this to happen. You never want to put too much pressure on her.
“I knew that she was in a fantastic place going into the Olympics this time.
“She was in great physical shape, but even more significant she was in great mental shape.
“She really had got her head screwed on, she was really trusting the process that she was going through with her vaulting.
“And I knew that she had all ducks lined up if you know what I mean, so I was hopeful, but this is just amazing.
“I don’t honestly think it’s sunk in. It’s probably not sunk in for her yet either.
“This is a major deal.”
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