All posts by Crystal Davis

Five footballers to look out for next season

From the latest player to be included in the 2016-17 Championship Team of the Season, to the Chelsea loanee who’s scored 19 goals, Elephant Sport presents its pick of the players set to make their mark next season and beyond. 

Aaron Mooy – Midfielder 

Image courtesy of htafc.com

On loan from Premier League club Manchester City, 26-year old Australian international Aaron Mooy has played an anchoring role in the heart of midfield for surprise Championship promotion contenders Huddersfield Town.

Since his arrival at the John Smith Stadium, Mooy has been won three Huddersfield Player of the Month awards.

His great form, which has resulted in several man-of-the-match performances, has help to take his side to new heights.

As things stand, they are third in the league table and still in with a chance of gaining automatic promotion to the Premier League.

Fact File 

Having joined the Terriers last summer, Mooy has scored three goals in 36 league appearances and provided five assists for his team-mates.

He has arguably been one of the Championship’s signings of the season and has been named in the league’s Team of the Season.

Click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].

 

 

 

Click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].

Head coach David Wagner has praised the City loanee. “One of the best for sure, we are very happy with him on the pitch and in the dressing room as well.

“He is an interesting character because he is very quiet but always focused, and he is a great footballer as well. We are very happy that we have him.”

Anthony Knockaert – Winger 

Image courtesy of seagulls.co.uk

Brighton & Hove Albion’s French winger has been an indispensable player for the Championship club.

The 25-year old signed for the Seagulls from Standard Liege in the 2016 January transfer window and has scored 13 goals in 37 league appearances this season, as well as conjuring up seven assists.

Fact File 

The Frenchman, once with Leicester City, has played a crucial role in his side’s quest for promotion to the Premier League.

The in-form winger has notched up an impressive seven Man of The Match awards, and his performances have made him a firm favourite with the fans.

Click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].

 

Click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].

 

He has since extended his initial three-year contract and will now remain at the Amex Stadium until the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

Commenting on the extension, Seagulls boss Chris Hughton said: “Anthony has been an integral member of the squad since his arrival in January last year, and I am delighted that we have been able to secure his immediate future to the club.”

“This new contract recognises the hard work and relentless effort he has given to the team, and I am looking forward to working with him over the coming years.”

To no surprise, Knockaert has been named in the Championship Team of The Season.

John Swift – Midfielder 

Image courtesy of readingfc.co.uk

The 21-year old England U21 midfielder has made a name for himself in the Championship with Reading who are currently fifth in the league table.

His three goals in January not only boosted the Royals chances of making the play-offs, but also landed him the EFL Young Player of the Month award.

Fact File 

In the number 10 position in 29 league appearances, he has scored seven goals and created three assists already this campaign.

Click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].

 

 

 

 

Click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].

 

In 2012, whilst playing for his previous club Chelsea, Swift lifted the FA Youth Cup.

The following season, he won the Premier League title with the Blues U21 side, scoring nine goals in 29 appearances.

Having already made his senior Premier League debut with Chelsea, Swift is no stranger to the expectations of playing in the top flight.

With Reading chasing a return to the Premier League, he will no doubt be up for the fight that awaits the Royals after the international break.

Tammy Abraham – Striker 

Image courtesy of bcfc.co.uk

Abraham is rocking up quite a storm at Bristol City. On a season long-loan from Chelsea, the 19-year old striker is certainly making his mark in the Championship.

Fact File 

At present, with 19 goals and three assists in 33 league appearances, the England U21 international has scored the most goals by a teenager across the top four English divisions.

click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].

 

 

 

 

Click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].
The powerful striker netted 74 goals in 98 games across all competition at various levels for the the Chelsea youth team during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns.

He was part of the Chelsea squad which won back to back titles in both the FA Youth Cup and the UEFA Youth League [UYL]  in the 2015 and 2016 campaigns.

His performance in the 2016 UYL saw him score eight goals in nine games, making him the tournament’s second highest goal scorer. He was then invited to train with the Chelsea senior squad by former interim manager Guss Hiddink.

Not long after on May 11th, 2016 in a Premier League fixture against Liverpool, Hiddink gave Abraham his senior debut, the promising forward replacing Bertrand Traore in the 74th minute.

Tyrone Mings – Defender 

Image courtesy of afcb.co.uk

AFC Bournemouth signed the 24-year old defender on a four-year contract from Ipswich Town for a reported £8m in the summer 2015 transfer window.

Fact Facts

Sadly, on his debut against Leicester City, Mings was substituted minutes into the game with an injury.

It transpired that he had torn his anterior cruciate ligaments [ACL], and the frustrated Cherries signing spent a season on the sidelines before making his return to manager Eddie Howe’s starting XI.

Click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].

 

 

 

 

Click to enlarge image [info taken from whoscored.com].

 

 

The defender is a product of Southampton’s youth academy where he played alongside future Arsenal star and England international Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Cherries supporters have yet to see the best of him, but given more game time with his potential he has all the attributes to become a regular in the Bournemouth line-up.

In the near future, many believe he is bound to be called up to the England senior squad.

Q&A – football writer Tashan Deniran-Alleyne

With their graduation fast approaching this summer, hundreds of final-year sports journalism students throughout the UK will be hoping to break into the media industry.

Tashan Deniran-Alleyne, a young football writer for The Morning Star, The Voice and Squawka, talks to Elephant Sport about how to secure that all-important first job or begin getting freelance work in what is an increasingly competitive field.

Besides a degree or internships, what else is required to break into the sports media industry?

Degrees and internships are good, but it’s making sure you get as much out of them as possible. You don’t want to be someone with a degree,  who had plenty of internships but struggle to meet deadlines for articles.

Versatility, standing out from the pack, being able to do multiple things in the industry. Making yourself an important part in any company.

For example, you don’t just want to be limited to one specific role. Expand your skills so that if something else comes available, your employees turn to you instead of looking elsewhere.

How beneficial is it to start off small, for example working whether paid or unpaid at your local radio station or newspaper?

It is extremely beneficial. I see it as the making of a sports journalist. You have to remember that it’s possible to stay in this industry for a very long time, so starting off small isn’t the worst idea.

Some of the best experiences I had was working for the non-league site. Paid or unpaid didn’t make a difference as I was learning about the industry, improving my writing skills, overcoming my nervousness of interviewing managers, players etc.

Starting off small allows you to focus on your long-term goals and there’s room for mistakes, which you can learn from and improve on. Also, I feel that’s where you really find out if it’s the career path you want to embark on.

Would you say aspiring sports journalists need a good working knowledge of lots of sports?

I think it definitely helps. It’s difficult to become a specialist in all given that there’s so many to cover. But if you have at least three different sports that you know very well and enjoy then that’s an advantage.

That also helps to build relationships with other people in the industry as you immediately have something else in common and makes you essentially unforgettable.

Can new journalists survive on the income paid to them, or is it best to have a job on the side even if it isn’t related to your future?

Starting out, it is a good idea to have a job on the side to help out financially, but you don’t want it to interfere with you becoming a journalist.

I always made sure I had enough money for travelling to and from games. It is difficult to say whether new journalists can survive on the income as every job differs, and it also depends on a person’s lifestyle to some degree.

As a rookie journalist, what is the importance of having a mentor?

A mentor can help guide you, answer any questions you have, and they are always there to keep you on the right track. They’ve probably gone through the same experiences as an aspiring journalist, so who better to go to for advice?

How tough is it being a young black sports journalist trying to get a job?

For me personally it hasn’t been too bad overall. It could be  because I didn’t pursue certain jobs until I knew I was completely ready and suitable for it.

But for the first part of 2016 I was unemployed, searching and applying for jobs that I felt I was suitable for, only to get a lack of responses and that can be difficult to take as someone trying to get his foot in the door.

Also, when you see that most (not all) newsrooms are predominately white, you can begin to question yourself as to whether this is the correct career path. But it’s an extremely difficult industry to get into regardless of race.

What advice would you give to upcoming sports journalist from a black and ethnic minority background trying to break into the industry?

I think it’s important to not let a lack of diversity in the industry distract you from your goals. Believe in yourself that you can reach the top of your profession and don’t let anything stand in your way.

It may sound cliche but hard work is the key to success. Try to better yourself everyday. In terms of advice, I would say you must fully understand the industry you’re getting into. You may have to do a lot of unpaid work, sacrifice weekends, work late nights but all will be worth it if you’re willing to put the effort in.

Networking is key. You just never know who can help you in the future. I’m lucky enough to have met some very helpful people over the years, for example the UK’s first black sports editor of a national daily newspaper, Kadeem Simmonds at the Morning Star.

Why did you choose this field?

I would say I chose this field because attending live football games and having my work seen by thousands online and in print is pretty cool.

I always wanted to do something football related. Whilst at college one of my teacher’s mentioned the possibility of becoming a football journalist because of my writing skills.

What was your first job as a sports journalist, and how did you land it?

My first job was as a match reporter for a non-league website called Football Exclusives. There was a talk from one of the third year students at my University he spoke about opportunities of attending live football matches.

I made sure to get his contact details, emailed him with examples of my work, we had a brief conversation and I was able to land the role as the site’s reporter for Sutton United.

Team GB will feel pressure at Worlds, says Kwakye

This summer, five years after it hosted its third Olympic Games, London will stage the 16th World Athletics Championships – the first time the capital has staged the competition.

Former British 100m champion and Beijing 2008 Olympic finalist Jeanette Kwakye says the competition is a fantastic opportunity for British athletes, but will bring with it a unique set of challenges.

“It’s a rare opportunity to have the World Championships in your home country, for the British athletes it will mean everything, especially for those who missed out on London 2012,” said Kwakye, whose own chances of competing on home soil at the 2012 Games were ruined by injury.

“I don’t believe there will be as much excitement around the World Championship as there was for the Olympics, but for Team GB there will be pressure because it’s a home games.

“There’s more exposure and it’s easier for friends and family to watch, so it will feel the like stakes are a bit higher.”

‘Worlds are as tough as the Olympics’

The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games should have been the start of great things for Kwakye.

She was the only European to reach the 100m final, and the first British woman to do so since Heather Oakes in 1984.

“I believe the Worlds should be on the same level as the [football] World Cup”

Her sixth place finish was done in a personal best of 11.4sec, and she came home ahead of 2000 Olympic relay gold medallist Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie, and 2003 world champion Torri Edwards.

The future looked bright but, sadly, injuries kicked in with a vengeance after Beijing, and Achilles tendon problems forced her to miss the entire 2010 season.

The following year, the outlook was better, as she won the British 100m title, adding the British 60m indoor title in 2012, but as the London Olympics grew closer, injuries intervened once again, ruling her out of the Games, and in January 2014 she retired from competing altogether.

Athletics has always played a huge role at the Olympics, but at the World Championships it has the stage all to itself.  But in the eyes of many spectators, an Olympic athletics gold medal still seems to a higher prize than a world title.

Kwakye says this is partly down to the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) not making the best job of promoting the world championship as a truly global event.

Burnout

“Spectators hold the Olympics in higher regards because of its history,” she said. “I believe it should be on the same level as the World Cup.

“If you had a successful Olympic campaign, it can really push you on psychologically to continue the good form”

“World championships are tough – as tough as the Olympics, it’s just that the Olympics have more prestige, so any UK athletes being crowned world champion will be a big deal, especially if it’s a woman – we’ve never had a female sprint world champion.”

Athletes’ preparations for major tournaments happen in cycles, and with London 2017 taking place less than 12 months after Rio 2016, there is a risk athletes who competed in Brazil last summer may suffer physical or mental burnout trying to raise their game for another major tournament so soon.

“A lot of this is down to coaching and experience,” Kwakye said. “A younger robust athlete can carry over the training effect from the year before and will probably benefit.

“But those who are less robust will have to adapt their training in the winter months because it can be very stressful on the body and mind,” she said.

Experience

“Nerves and excitement always kicked in for me at the preparation camp. It takes place two weeks before a championships and is usually in close proximity, but with them being at home this time, it’s likely that British athletes will go somewhere warm abroad”.

“There needs to be more profiling of athletes in the media… once young people show an interest then corporate sponsors will take notice”

“Older athletes use their experience and you may find many of them will not go back in to training until November to December following an Olympics”.

“If you had a successful Olympic campaign, it can really push you on psychologically to continue the good form. On the flip side a terrible campaign can also drive the athlete to do better. A lot of it is down to individual personality.”

Despite her retirement in 2014, Kwakye remains the national 60m record holder and retains a close interest in Britain’s athletic stars of the future through her involvement in schemes such as the Youth Sport Trust.

With London 2017 just six months away, Kwakye says she would like to see the competition being given a higher media profile.

“There needs to be more profiling of athletes in the media,” she explained. “We need more engagement with education organisations and schools – once young people show an interest then people and corporates will take notice.”

Team GB: Ones to watch 

Whilst Team GB may not have many clear favourites to win at London 2017, Kwakye says there are certainly plenty of medal hopefuls to look out for.

“For British female sprinters, this year I think Desiree Henry in the 100m and 200m will be the standout athlete.

“Adam Gemili who runs the 100m and 200m has had a coaching move, so I will be keen to see what manifests,” she added.

“There is also Lorraine Ugen and Jaz Sawyers in the long jump, Laura Muir over the middle distance; I think they are the ones to look out for.

“I would like to see how Sophie Hitchon capitalises on her Olympic bronze medal in the women’s hammer throw, too.”

‘I can do greatness’ – Russell has eyes on the prize at London 2017

“I have to prove to myself that I cannot be defeated.”

It’s a bold statement, but Janieve Russell is simply sharing her ambition to one day dominate the 400m hurdles.

Jamaica’s 2012 world junior champion took another step on that path last summer, finishing seventh in the Olympic final in Rio.

At 23, she is aiming to improve on that placing at this year’s World Athletics Championships in London.

“I’m trying my best to stay injury-free because I know if I can stay healthy, I can be great,” she told me.

“I want to create history for my country. I want Jamaican fans at home and abroad to expect good things from me. I want to be on the podium like my track idols.

“London will be very different to Rio but I’m very excited. I think it’ll be awesome.”

Upgrade

The first glimpse of Russell’s potential came to light on her international debut at the 2008 Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) Games, where she won silver in the under-17 long jump.

“I found my switch to hurdles challenging but I love challenges”

A year later at the 2009 Games, she upgraded that to gold, as well as winning bronze in the high jump and golds in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

Her burgeoning talent was confirmed three years later at the 2012 World Junior Championships, where she won gold in what has become her main event, the 400m hurdles.

This saw her become only the second Jamaican woman to achieve this honour, the other being future Commonwealth gold medallist Kaliese Spencer.

Focus

However, the impact of competing in multiple events began to take its toll on Russell with a succession of injuries, and it was this that made her decide to focus on the hurdles.

“I noticed I was getting numerous injuries, more than what I am experiencing now,” explained the former pentathlete and heptathlete.

“There aren’t many programmes in Jamaica designed for multi-event athletes, they tend to focus on specifics things like sprints, hurdles and the quarter-mile.

“I found my switch to hurdles challenging but I love challenges. I feel it suits me. I can do greatness. I’m comfortable.”

Progress

Since committing to the hurdles, Russell has made steady progress, culminating in reaching the final in Rio.

She might not finished among the medals in Brazil, but she says the whole experience of being part of the Olympics was a huge learning process.

“In high school I was always watching the Games as an athlete but not thinking I would be there like them”

“As we know, before the rainbow there is always rain!” she laughed.

“I was very excited to be on the Jamaica team. Being the youngest in the finals in terms of experience, I took away the attitude of never giving up, no matter the situation or outcome – just keep pushing.

“The Olympics taught me you will have some people who will stay by your side, and some who will leave. But no matter the outcome, turn it into a positive.

“I have to prove to myself that I cannot be defeated.”

‘Dream come true’

Even now, though, she admits to still finding it slightly overwhelming to line up against some of her more high-profile rivals.

“In high school I was always watching the Games as an athlete but not thinking I would be there like them – I was always supporting those competing,” she said.

“When I started the 400m hurdles, I wanted to be as great as [2008 Olympic and 2009 world champion] Melanie Walker and even better. I wanted to achieve as much as [1996 Olympic champion] Deon Hemmings.

“All of this is a dream come true.”

Inspiration

Jamaica’s former Olympic gold medallist Walker and Omar McLeod, the current men’s Olympic 11om hurdles and 6om hurdles world indoor champion, have both shown Team Jamaica are capable of producing world-beaters in disciplines other than their usual strongholds in the shorter sprints.

“To come out on top in London in front of all those fans would truly be a blessing”

Russell said: “Melanie Walker has inspired me greatly because I know she is also multi-talented, she can do sprint hurdles and the 400m hurdles.

“To see someone with so much heart go out there year after year, to perform so well, pushes me to say ‘I can be great too’.

“I just have to believe in myself. As long as you are willing to work hard for something you want – which I am – as well as listening to my coach, I believe I can emulate what my compatriots have achieved in their events.”

London calling

Having already lived one dream in Rio, Russell’s sights are now set on the 2017 Worlds at the London Stadium, which of course hosted the 2012 Olympics track and field programme.

To step onto the podium, perhaps as champion, particularly in a city that’s home to so many Caribbean supporters, would be a huge achievement for her.

“To see all the preparations, dedication and faith I’ve put in over the last two years of being injured pay off, and to come out on top in London in front of all those fans would truly be a blessing.

“The preparations are going well. I am working towards small goals, building up to my season. Every race I run, I want to improve and to maintain my consistency.”

Russell surprised herself by reaching the final and finishing fifth at the 2015 Worlds in Beijing. Don’t bet against her being in the medals in London this summer.

‘My kids’ friends think I’m a superhero’

Andrea Thompson’s two children are very proud of their mum, and rightly so. She is, after all, officially Britain’s strongest woman.

“They often take in newspaper stories about me or medals in to school to show their classmates,” she says.

“It’s quite amusing when a group of five-year-olds approach me in the playground, and ask how much can I lift.

“As they don’t understand weights yet, I tell them I could pick up the head teacher – they think I’m a superhero, it’s the best feeling ever!”

Thompson, 34, won her title last August, and now has her eyes set on bigger prizes including the Arnold Strongman Classic. Founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger, it takes place annually in Columbus, Ohio.

Hiccup

The part-time bar manager from Melton, Suffolk, won four out of five events to claim the British crown in Northampton, having only begun competing in strongman/woman events in June 2014.

She triumphed in the deadlift contest, picking up a mammoth 215kg bar from the floor to a standing position, and destroyed the field in the giant dumbbell event by lifting a 42.5kg weight above her shoulder seven times.

Another win for Thompson came in the yoke carry, where she had to dash to 15 metres with a 230kg H-shaped frame before dropping it, she then proceeded to the farmers’ walk, where she transported 100kg in each hands back down the circuit.

She suffered a hiccup in the truck pull, coming second-to-last, but completed the day with a strong finish in the Atlas stones, where she lifted three of the four hefty spheres in the quickest time to beat her opponents to the prize.

Festival

Her focus has switched to the Arnold Sports Festival, where she competed for the first time last year.

“It’s hard as a ‘Strongwoman’ is still a niche and it takes many titles and broken records to really get noticed”

The ‘Arnolds’ are multi-sport competition which includes the Arnold Strongman Classic, fitness and figure events, professional bodybuilding, and a bikini weekend expo.

“The Arnolds are the biggest strength and fitness event in the world, they’re huge,” Thompson told Elephant Sport. “Sometime people work for years for a spot at this event.

“I competed there as a novice and came fifth in the world,” she explained. “My aim is beat that. You are competition against yourself, and if you mess up, you will only have yourself to blame.”

Gruelling

Although different to weightlifting as seen at the Olympics, Strongman – which, despite its name, includes events for women – does have similarities, Thompson said.

As well as lifting, the gruelling events also focus on areas such as athleticism, mental and physical strength, speed and endurance.

“It took a while to adjust my mindset, and I still have days where I want to eat kilos of chocolate – I’m a woman after all!”

Thompson has confidence in her abilities to compete at the highest level – if she can afford to…

“I was hoping there would be a flurry of potential sponsors [following her British title win],” she said. “It’s hard as a ‘Strongwoman’ is still a niche and it takes many titles and broken records to really get noticed.

“Ideally I would get a sponsor to fund my trip, and the rest I would fund through my job. I usually work extra hours if I have a competition coming up.

“For last year’s USA trip, I had help from family and friends. My husband is also very supportive, and supports my career financially, too.”

Disastrous diets

Although she’s still coming to terms with her rapid rise in the world of Strongman/woman and the costs involved in elite competition, one massive benefit for Thompson is that, after having previously struggled through disastrous diets, the sport has finally helped her to learn to love her own body.

“It started as a hobby and a way to get fit,” she explained. “I’d spent so long lifting at various gyms and bootcamps and being on disastrous diets in a body I hated. The sport has taught me to love what my body can do.

“It has also taught me to pass on that self-belief to my children and others around me. I look at food as a fuel, not as a comfort which what I used to do.

“It took a while to adjust my mindset, and I still have days where I want to eat kilos of chocolate – I’m a woman after all!”

Check out Andrea’s Facebook page.

Review – I Am Bolt

Feature length documentary ‘I Am Bolt’ culminates with Jamaica’s spring king winning an unprecented ‘triple triple’ of golds at 100m, 200m and 4x100m at three successive Olympics in Rio, but winds things back to where it all began in rural Trelawny 30 years ago.

“For his height, they say Usain shouldn’t be running so fast, for where he’s from, they are saying he shouldn’t be who he is,” says manager and best friend Nugent Walker, referring to the fact that Bolt grew up poor.

Directors Benjamin Tuner and Gabe Turner capture the humble roots of the world’s fastest man, with contributions from his parents Wellesley and Jennifer, and clips of a young Bolt, his face bearing the mischievous  grin now familiar to billions of people around the world.

They trace Bolt’s journey from when he burst onto the athletics scene as a skinny young boy, through to him beating his chest as he crossed the line at in the 100m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, onto London 2012 and finally to Brazil this summer.

Along the way there are flashbacks to key events such as the World Junior Championships for U20s in 2002, at Kingston’s national stadium, where Bolt, aged, 15, won the 200m in front of his hard-to-please home crowd. Bolt still regards it as his best moment ever.

Inspirational

If  you are able to make the Jamaican crowd chant your name at 15, you know you have real potential – and the film shows how Bolt has realised that youthful promise.

The film-makers have no doubt created an inspirational documentary, one which captures the hard work behind Bolt’s seemingly carefree attitude, but it’s not perfect.

“His success hasn’t come as easily as his laid-back persona sometimes suggests”

In a sporting context, questions are left unanswered, such as the drugs scandal that looms over athletics, and the problems Jamaica has had in this regard.

The issue of doping does come up, but it’s at the expense of the former American drug cheat, and once Olympic and world champion Justin Gatlin, stumbling over his words, and angrily responding to a journalist’s probing question on his doping history.

With exclusive access to Bolt, his team and those closest to him, the film-makers missed an opportunity to address the shortcomings in Jamaica’s drug-testing regime.

This could directly impact on Bolt if relay team-mate Nesta Carter alleged use of a banned stimulant at the Beijing Olympics is proved and the 4x100m squad are stripped of their gold medals because of it.

Lifestyle

“Work for what you want” – Bolt is captured reminiscing about his father’s message to him as a young boy, and it’s advice he has respected and adhered to.

Training hard twice a day under the tough auspices of long-time coach Glen Mills, altering his lifestyle and diet – all in hope of being regarding as the greatest athlete ever – Bolt is truly shown as his father’s son. His success hasn’t come as easily as his laid-back persona sometimes suggests.

The film also shows Bolt using his rivals’ words as motivation, such as an interview Gatlin gave to TMZ.

“What makes me strive is the fact that they talk all the time,” Bolt says. “When you talk and tell me what you’re going to do, all it makes me want to do is work harder, big up to yourself, Justin Gatlin.”

And yet, it’s often overlooked that Bolt has often not been at his best going into major championships, and Rio was a case in point.

‘Gigantic task’

With his season and training regime disrupted by injury in the build-up to the 2016 Games, the film reveals Bolt to be plagued by doubts and sometimes struggling to find the motivation needed to succeed at the Olympics once again.

He is shown seeking advice from friends including four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson and Australia’s 200m Commonwealth champion John Steffensen.

“The documentary ends with Bolt joining some exalted company in a humble setting that takes the audience back to his origins”

If was as if  Bolt felt that there was nothing left prove. As coach Mills puts it: “He’s faced with a gigantic task, it will be like starting all over again.”

Ultimately, it wasn’t his coach or friends, but arch-rival Gatlin who finally awoke the sleeping beast.

The world gets a rare glimpse of Bolt looking frustrated and annoyed as his medical exception from the Jamaican trials has members of Team USA, including Gatlin and Mike Rodgers, making insinuations and casting aspersions.

Famously relaxed by nature, and as an athlete with a completely clean drugs-testing record, he uses their disrespect to ignite the fire within ahead of Rio.

Saviour 

It’s clear from that scene onwards that Bolt finally has all the motivation he needs to defend his own – and his sport’s – reputation, and cement his unbeaten Olympic legacy in Brazil.

A medium close-up shows him to be visually angry over the negative spin of the Americans. He shakes his head, stares into the camera and says: “It’s not going to be the same.”

In that moment the audience can see that the man viewed by many as the saviour of athletics – with all its corruption and drug issues – is ready to show the world how a race should be won. It’s safe to say that Gatlin and Rodgers had no idea what they had done…

Job done in Rio, and retirement now beckons for Bolt after the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London next summer.

But, as the documentary shows, he has already joined some exalted company in a ceremony in a humble setting that again takes the audience back to his origins.

The sprinter sees his portrait join those of Jamaican national icons Nanny the Maroon and Marcus Garvey on the wall at his old school, William Knibb Hill Memorial High.

It captures the love, appreciation and esteem that Jamaicans hold for their finest-ever athlete – one for whom ‘I Am Bolt’ delivers a fitting visual portrait.

For more information about ‘I Am Bolt’ visit the film’s website.

St Mary’s on track for more success as Worlds head to London

The clock is ticking and the race is on to qualify for the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.

Next summer, elite competitors from all over world will descend on the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, reviving memories of the 2012 Games.

But can the magic of that hugely successful event – and the medal haul they generated for Team GB – be recreated five years on?

With London at its multicultural and vibrant best for the Olympics and Paralympics, the achievements and record-breaking moments of 2012 still feel fresh in the mind.

As does the joyous spectacle and bouncing energy, the pride and joy that filled the Olympic Stadium – compared to the rows of empty seats and lack of atmosphere at the Rio 2016 Games.

From the athletes to the fervent crowds and army of ever-helpful ‘Games Makers’, London showed how the Olympics should be, and for the world to see.

Great show

At St Mary’s University’s Endurance Performance and Coaching Centre (EPACC) in south-west London, staff are confident that the 2017 IAAF and IPC World Athletics Championships can match will have a similar feel-good factor.

“Seeing the likes of Farah and Bolt training here just gives them so much inspiration”

“It was fantastic, I have never seen a crowd like London,” said Rowan Axe, an assistant at EPACC. “I don’t think you will ever beat what we had, the home support was just fantastic.

 “London in particular, it’s so multicultural, they just get behind everyone, whether they be a British or American or whatever, the crowd is behind them.

“And for athletes, competing in front of their home crowd provides inspiration. Next summer is going to be brilliant – London always put on a great show.”

St. Mary’s has played an important role in the achievements of British athletics, with the likes of Mo Farah and Jo Pavey among its success stories in recent years.

Endurance

“For distance it’s right up there,” said Axe. “I think we produced around 40% of the endurance squad selected to represent Team GB for the Rio Olympics.

“That’s a testimony to the Centre, and looking ahead to the Worlds in 2017, I think there will be a similar number of EPACC-supported athletes competing for Britain.

“Andy Vernon in 5k and 10k, you might have Adele Tracey for the 800m, the list can go on. I think the Centre is helping to produce the great endurance athletes that we need. The continued support from the London Marathon is crucial to enhancing those athletes to get to that next level.”

As well as helping to hone British talent, EPACC’s reputation for sporting excellence has also seen it play host to some of the world’s greatest athletes.

Like Farah, Jamaica’s nine-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt  has occasionally trained at the EPACC in preparation for major events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Ambassador

“It’s a huge benefit to both British athletics and endurance running if it inspires student athletes to try and get to that level. If they can see those calibre of athletes  it inspires them to push themselves,” Axe said.

“A lot of these students are still very young and have a long way to go. But seeing the likes of Farah and Bolt training here just gives them so much inspiration.

“We need to get the profile of athletics out there a bit more, but hopefully it will continue to grow, and we will get more people watching it”

“It’s great that Farah is a huge ambassador for our university. A lot of these students look up to him, and it definitely gives them a lot of fuel to achieve some success.”

According to Axe, the EPACC has played a big role in the Somali-born runner’s feats, which this summer included defending his London 2012 5,000m and 10,000m titles in Rio.

“Farah used the Centre to his advantage, he progressed year on year, looking to take that extra step, and that is ultimately what to took him to the Nike project in America.

“But without the support that he had from the Centre, he might not be the athlete he is today. It definitely helped his career.”

Right direction

However, even Farah’s success and with the 2017 Worlds on the horizon, Axe believes British endurance running still needs plenty of nurturing and support.

“In the UK, you go to some of our track meets around the country and there will be very little media coverage, there won’t be any big-name sponsors, it lacks a bit of that environment.

“I think they we need to get the profile of athletics out there a bit more, but hopefully it will continue to grow, and we will get more people watching it.

 “It’s definitely going in the right direction, it is getting there.”

Medals for Team GB at next summer’s eagerly-awaited athletics extravaganza in Stratford can only help that process.

More diversity progress needed in sports media

How hopeful can aspiring sports journalists from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds be about getting into the media industry and building successful careers?

On the one hand, many of the delegates I met at DWord2 – the second conference on diversity organised by the Black Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMS) – spoke about opportunities and a widening of the industry’s ethnic and cultural mix.

On the other, research shared by BCMOS founder Leon Mann painted a bleaker picture.

 Among the 450-plus written and broadcast UK media personnel covering this year’s European Football Championship, Wimbledon, the Olympics and Paralympics, BAME representation was just 9.6%.

There were no non-white females covering any of the events for newspapers, only two BAME males reporting for papers at Euro 2016 and one white female. The figures for BAME and women reporters were boosted somewhat by 19 working in TV commentary roles across the four major events.

DWord2, held at the BT Sport studios in Stratford, brought together some of the most influential figures in the sports media industry to discuss its lack of diversity and underrepresentation.

BCOMS Findings
BCOMS facts and figures for Euro 2016, Wimbledon, Olympics and Paralympics

As a young BAME woman with ambitions to work in the sports media, I sense that there is progress being made.

We are in a better position than before, but as the statistics showed, a lot of work still needs to be done.

The Daily Telegraph’s Jonathan Liew summed up the sports media industry pretty succinctly when he said: “They’re white men.”

Glimmer of hope

Whether it’s BBC executive Shelley Alexander, or freelance reporter and producer Benny Bonsu, a more truthful and accurate representation of our society in the media is a must.

From a personal perspective, their success gives aspiring black female sports journalists like myself a glimmer of hope, that, regardless of our race or background – and so long as we are great at what we do, are determined and get guidance and support –  we can one day turn our dreams into reality.

“Young sports journalists like me, aiming to break into a traditionally white, male-dominated industry are doing so at the right time”

Working at the DWord2 event gave me the chance to speak to Kadeem Simmonds, the UK’s first black sports editor of a national daily newspaper (The Morning Star), as well as Rodney Hinds, sports editor of Britain’s biggest and most recognisable black newspaper, The Voice.

Both of these inspirational figures gave me a sense optimism.

Although there’s still a long way to go, looking ahead, and with further backing and support from campaigning organisations such as BCOMS, we may come to find more journalists from BAME backgrounds in position of power and influence.

Uplifting

I spoke to a number of journalists, as well as people who work in different areas of the media from the BBC to Uefa, many of whom said that they had not found it difficult getting into the jobs they currently do.

Neither did they feel that they had missed out on opportunities because of their race or gender. I found their experiences uplifting.

“I hope that, with a lot of hard work and dedication, I will one day be an inspiration for the aspiring young journalists from BAME backgrounds aiming to follow in my footsteps”

As the day continued, I took a step back and I realised that I was surrounded by black excellence, respected by their peers throughout the sports media industry.

In the final year of my BA Sports Journalism degree course at the University Arts of London, they gave me belief that the journey I’m on can lead to a successful outcome.

Young sports journalists like me, aiming to break into a traditionally white, male-dominated industry are doing so at the right time.

This is because pioneers, like many of those attending DWord2, have blazed a trail for us and are actively working for fair and equal opportunities.

Yes, the passionate debate on underrepresentation and the need for more diversity in the sports media stems from deeply embedded institutional problems.

But the fact that the conference attracted so many of the industry’s big hitters, including Philip Bernie, head of TV Sport at the BBC, BT Sport chief Simon Green, and C4 commissioning executive Andy Stevenson, showed the issues are being taken seriously.

I hope that, with a lot of hard work and dedication, I will one day be an inspiration for the aspiring young journalists from BAME backgrounds aiming to follow in my footsteps.

For more on the work of the BCOMS, visit their website.