RAF girl shines at Olympics

Rachael pictured second from right in the front row.
Rachael pictured second from right in the front row.

A FORMER St Andrews school pupil has just returned from a four-week tour of duty to support the 2012 Olympic Games.

Flight Lieutenant Rachael Cadman, based at HQ Air Cadets, RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire, attended St Leonards School while living with her family in Fife.

She has crowned an amazing record-breaking year with a starring role in the Games after being chosen as one of a select team of 16 tri-service personnel to carry the Olympic and Union flags at the spectacular opening ceremony, which was watched by an estimated audience of nearly 27 million people worldwide.

She has also finished duties on five victory ceremonies in the Velodrome.

Rachael told the Citizen this week: “The feelings of excitement and pride in representing my country, the Royal Air Force and the Air Cadets at the Olympics Opening Ceremony are enormous. It is an immense privilege to be chosen to fly the flag on behalf of all UK Servicemen and women.

“In total, we covered the opening event which was watched by nearly 27 million people worldwide and we completed five victory ceremonies in the Velodrome.

“Because of the scale of the event it was very nerve-wracking but we had been extremely well drilled and we were very confident on the night.”

Rachael was selected as a member of the Olympic Flag Team – one of a handful of military involved in the high profile ceremonial flag carrying sections of the event – earlier this year and went to HMS Collingwood, Portsmouth, in early July for two days of preliminary training.

Based at Hyde Park Barracks, London, the team was then drilled for hours to perfect every step including climbing the grass “Tor” while keeping the Union flag and then the Olympic flag perfectly flat as the world watched on via their television screens.

ATHLETES

Rachael said: “The Tor was amazing; it was made of fibreglass and wood and then covered in turf. Our biggest worry was that we would slip but happily it was all good on the night. If anything, the final dress rehearsal was more nerve-wracking for me as my husband and sister-in-law were in the crowd watching me.

“My shoes have never been as shiny nor my uniform so pristine and I can honestly say that being part of the opening ceremony took our breath away. I have memories that will last me a lifetime and I look forward to sharing them with any children or grandchildren I may have.’’

The noise of the music meant that Rachael and her colleagues had to use earpieces to listen in and know when to step from the underground holding area into the spotlight. The team also had to be conscious of various protocol issues surrounding use of the flags and balance that carefully with the creative requirements of the event.

Rubbing shoulders with the athletes was the highlight for Rachael, herself an accomplished triathlon competitor who, earlier this year, took the title of first female to ever complete the Arch to Arc Challenge.

Amazingly, she even shared coach Jack Maitland with the Olympic medallists the Brownlee brothers when she was studying sports science at Leeds Metropolitan University.

She added: “Seeing Chris Hoy as he received his sixth Olympic gold medal was just amazing and so emotional but I had no idea he was over six feet tall! Jessica Ennis is a real powerhouse but is much smaller than I thought at about five feet five inches.

‘‘After the first day or so it became normal to see so many sports stars…Mark Cavendish who has always been an inspiration walked past; as did Usain Bolt and Maria Sharapova – who really is as beautiful as her pictures. Victoria Pendleton sat right in front of me when she finished her final race and I had to ask her to move because she was on my flag!

PRIVILEGE

’’One of the most satisfying parts of being involved in the Olympics was the overwhelming appreciation shown to the military by members of the public. We were approached so many times by people thanking us for helping – I will always remember their kind words but for us it was an absolute privilege to be involved.”

The Olympic Games have inspired Rachael to keep up her triathlon training and aim to compete for Great Britain in the 30-34 age group long distance event at the World Championships next year.

As part of her training schedule, which resumes at the end of next month, she will compete in the ICAN triathlon event in Malaga in April; the Edinburgh Marathon in May and the Outlaw Triathlon in Nottingham in July.

Starting with base work involving weights and core exercises she aims to build her stamina, strength and speed to represent the RAF and the Air Cadets once again.

Holding the accolade of Sportswoman of the Year, Rachael of Scotland, has excelled in extreme endurance sports. Last year, she completed the notorious, ultra-distance Enduroman Arch to Arc Triathlon running a mammoth 87 miles from London before swimming the English Channel and finishing with a 185 mile cycle ride to Paris.

She completed the challenge in just 97 hours which was the fourth fastest time ever and she was also took the honour of being the first female to complete it.

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