Vanessa Raw admits she had ‘unfinished business’ as the golden girl of British Triathlon.
But now the versatile Hexham-born talent is backing the sport’s current crop of female stars to make it a Tokyo summer to savour.
Raw studied Fine Art at Loughborough University and is now a full-time artist after enjoying a successful, albeit short-lived, triathlon career.
She scooped a hat-trick of medals on the international stage but was forced to retire prematurely after suffering a string of injuries.
Durham-raised Raw has hypermobility syndrome and was denied a dream Olympic debut in 2008 before a series of further setbacks saw her hang up her running shoes, swim suit and bike in 2016.
She’s now letting the creative juices flow in her south-west London studio but admits her career remains tinged with a hint of regret.
Raw, 36, said: “I was close to going to the Olympics a few times, but then got injured just before.
“It was hard for me, because it was just relentless. One after the other – I recovered once, was back training for a few days and then got injured again.
“It was very hard and I began to lose trust in my own body. I just so underperformed to my potential.
“It is very frustrating. Every time I was injured I was like ‘another year, another year, another year’, but actually I just wanted to go and do my art.
“But I felt like I wanted to get somewhere near my potential before I quit, and I never felt like I did. It was one of those unfinished tasks. It was very frustrating.
“Maybe being hypermobile I was just never going to be a good runner and it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe I was just trying for something and actually, it’s just one of those things.
“That is my biggest problem – I need to stop looking back and just look forward. We can’t just keep having regrets – it doesn’t get us anywhere, does it?
“I would have liked to fulfil what I could have done earlier and then quit, in an ideal world. But we can’t keep looking back.”
Raw specialises in large oil paintings on a canvas background and is currently honing her craft at her studio in Earlsfield.
She lives in East Putney with partner Graeme Purdy – a renowned photographer – but the pair are soon moving to Margate, Kent, to pursue artistic pastures new.
Raw has fully immersed herself in the creative world but continues to follow the state of British Triathlon closely.
The Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny, captured hearts with their London and Rio heroics while Georgia Taylor-Brown is emerging as a key Japan medal hope ahead of the Games this summer.
Raw says the sport couldn’t be in a better place and hopes Taylor-Brown, supported by the likes of Jess Learmonth, Vicky Holland and Jodie Stimpson, can steer Team GB to Tokyo nirvana.
“British Triathlon’s team is in the best shape it’s ever been,” added Raw, who is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo.
“They have so many good competitors. We’re one of the top [teams] in the world now and we’re doing so well. I’m really looking forward to them competing.
“Georgia Taylor-Brown is brilliant. To be honest, I think the girl’s teams are doing even better [than the men’s]. They have so many at the top, which is really tough because only three people can go [to the Olympics].
“In any other decade, the ones who are fifth, sixth and seventh would have gone to the Olympics and stood a good chance. But they’ve just got all the top girls at the moment.”
Vanessa Raw is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo, with the same amazing home support as London 2012. Visit @PurplebricksUK on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube