Angela Hannah is one very thankful Olympian
Self-described fierce competitor Angela Hannah of Great Britain, who won World Cup bronze in the K2 500m in 2011 and came fifth in the K4 500m in London, is content no matter the result, as she says she has achieved “more than I ever thought I would.”
“People who know me say, ‘She is the most competitive person ever,’” Angela honestly shares.
“I can enjoy something for fun, but in kayaking I am driven. If someone is in front of you, you want to be in front of them.
“What has kept me going — not I will beat them at whatever cost — [is] that I can still get more out of myself.”
Born in Vindura, a small town in Zimbabwe, Angela recalls she had access to many sports facilities.
“From the beginning I was able to play most sports including hockey, tennis, athletics, cross-country, along with squash and swimming. I dabbled in most things.”
Moving to England to study, she started in kayaking four years ago at university and found she enjoyed the strictly structured training and paddling on “stunning” lakes.
“Early in the morning, you see what a beautiful creation this world is,” she expresses. “And you think, ‘I am so happy here doing this.’”
At a regatta in April 2010, she broke through to national level at a time when she recalls she was in “a very precarious position”.
“I started the year not thinking I would be anywhere near selection,” she says.
“I did quite well in the 500m and 200m singles (K1), fast enough to be selected for (team) boats.”
In 2011, she hit the big time at the World Championships, placing seventh in the K1 singles.
“I was really happy with that,” she says, “because it was the first time I had done any international competition in my boat by myself.”
On her Twitter profile, alongside “Fast track contestant for London 2012”, Angela casually describes herself as “a follower of Jesus Christ”, and does not appear to worry what people may think.
The reason Angela is bold becomes apparent when she is questioned about the difference Jesus makes and she responds “a massive difference”.
“There have been times when I have been a rebellious teen, have not trusted Him, been angry with Him and done anything but spend time with Him — and it was a depressing distant time,” she explains.
“Having Him in my life gives me purpose and the freedom to enjoy life as long as I am working to the best of my ability for Him.”
What set Angela on this faith-filled path was a vivid dream as a six year old.
In this dream, she says, “There was a massive group of people following Jesus to be crucified, including my mum and my two sisters, saying ‘Come, Ang. It will be fine.’
“There was another group in a Jacuzzi party situation saying, ‘No, she can just stay with us.’ I was in floods of tears because I wanted to go with my family but I knew that I couldn’t.
“I knew then that I hadn’t given Jesus my life and I did not know where I was going (after I died). So my mum prayed with me and I gave my life to Him and I have followed Him since.”
Living as a Christian in elite sport is definitely a challenge, says Angela, as she is encouraged to be selfish while she is also “trying to be like Jesus, looking out for others.”
“It is really difficult when others are being selfish, and it’s like, ‘I am supposed to love them, but I don’t like them.’
“I have definitely found it a challenge to think of other people’s interests, to love the person and care about their eternal situation, rather than how they are doing in a boat next to me.”
How Angela handles this is spending time in prayer with God.
For her, prayer “is a really good time… focusing on what is really important. Having that relationship with the Lord calms me. I have to just rely on Him for everything.”
Whatever happens, Angela simply thanks God that He has brought her so far in the sport.
“The romantic idea is to make an Olympic event and win a medal, but just now I am very happy just to get there,” she says.
Follow Angela’s achievements at www.teamgb.com/athletes/angela-hannah — interview courtesy Stuart Weir