Tag Archives: Tokyo 2020

Ollie Hynd MBE: I was really close to quitting swimming

The golds, the glory, the honours – Paralympic swimming champion Ollie Hynd has done it all. But it took a ‘light bulb’ moment whilst watching older brother Sam race in Beijing in 2008 to set him on the path to success.

“Sam also used to compete and he went to the Beijing Games. My parents took me to China to support him,” says the 25-year-old. “At the time I was quite reluctant and didn’t really want to go as I wasn’t very interested.

“But as soon as I got there, I was really inspired by the whole thing. I’d seen how much work that Sam had put into his swimming and his dedication. That inspired me to try and make London 2012. That was the first moment where I thought ‘I want to give this a real good go’.”

It wasn’t going to be easy, though. The swimming star was dealt a tough start to life. Just like his brother, he was diagnosed with neuromuscular myopathy at the age of 12; a condition that affects his whole body.

Hynd explains: “It’s more distally than proximally, so my hands are worse than my shoulders and my feet and knees are a little bit worse than my hips.

“With day-to-day stuff, walking is the big one. There’s a struggle with the stairs, writing and opening things. Little things like that affect my day-to-day life. Obviously, that translates into the pool and my impairments in the pool as well.”

Hynd first entered the swimming pool as a youngster when his parents encouraged him to be more water-safe – and it wasn’t long before he picked up a passion for the sport. He joined Sutton Swimming Club aged eight, then moved to the Nova Venturian Swimming Squad after that trip to Beijing made him start to believe that a bright future in the sport was possible.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Gold rush

Hynd’s hard work and dedication paid off. Not only did he qualify for the 2012 Paralympics in London, he took a gold medal home in the 200m individual medley as well – an experience that he will never forget.

“London 2012 as a whole experience was absolutely incredible. For any athlete wanting to compete at the highest level, competing at a home games is amazing.” says the Mansfield-born athlete.

“For me to not only be able to compete but to win a gold was an absolute dream. The only regret I have from London 2012 is that, because I was so young at 17, I didn’t really appreciate exactly what it was or the magnitude of what I was taking part in.

“For instance, I didn’t really take any photos at all whilst I was there which is kind of crazy. But it was a great experience and something that I will never forget and feel very really lucky to have been a part of.”

After being awarded an MBE for services to swimming a year later – an experience he describes “crazy” – Hynd turned his focus to bettering his achievements in London at the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

“As much as London was great, the four years from London to Rio was really special. The training group that we had and all the competitions we had in between, it was just a really special time in my life and career.

“It was tipped off with Rio 2016 as the pinnacle of four years and even longer of really hard and very obsessive work for that one, sole goal.

“What made it more special was the negative stuff [about Brazil’s preparations] going into the games. We didn’t really know how it was going to go or what it was going to be like. But we got there and the village was fantastic, the people were great, the venue was great, food was great, transport was great.”

Hynd took gold in his opening event, the 400m freestyle, smashing the world record in the final. He then repeated the feat in his closing competition, winning and setting a new world record in the 200m individual medley.

He was riding on the crest of a wave. Everything that he touched was literally turning to gold. But he was soon dealt a blow out of the blue that left the triple gold medalist questioning his future in the sport.

Re-classified

In March 2018, the swimming star received news that as part of new IPC rules, he would be moved from the S8 classification that he’d competed in for his whole career, up to the S9 category. It was a major blow.

“It was pretty devastating,” says Hynd. “It was just a really difficult time and I didn’t really understand it or have the answers for it.

“You’re swimming against people with less of an impairment, I guess. If you were comparing it to fighting, it would be like moving up a weight class.

“It was really difficult because I’d been obsessed with my craft, and everything has got to be focused around it, so when that all happened, my identity was so wrapped up in me as a swimmer. But when that rug was pulled from beneath me, everything went.”

Hynd admits that the experience took its toll on his mental health, too: “It was really challenging and I’m not ashamed to admit it led to some mental health issues as well. It was a challenging year.”

Fellow para-athletes Matt Wylie, Jonathan Fox and Josef Craig retired from their respective sports after also having their classifications controversially changed but Hynd, after much consideration, decided to stick with it.

He says: “I came really, really close [to retiring]. What made it more complicated is that we appealed the decision and that dragged on for a few months afterwards. Until the final decision was made, it was ongoing. But in the summer of 2018, I was really close to calling it a day and saying ‘that’s it, I’m done with the sport’. Really, really close.

“But I didn’t make that decision and a year down the line, I’m happy that I continued. It’s just given me a bit more perspective I think – not just in swimming, but in life in general. There’s so much more to the sport and to life than just the gold medals”

The future

Hynd’s focus is now firmly on qualifying for the Tokyo Paralympics, with the all-important trials taking place in April. Despite fears that the coronavirus outbreak might delay or even lead to the cancellation of the Games, the three-time champion only has one thing on his mind.

“You’ve just got to trust the powers that be to make the right decision [about the Games going ahead]. The health and well-being of athletes is the most important thing, so I’m sure that they’ll make the right decision.

“I’m just giving 100% in my training and focusing on Tokyo. I’ve also already been selected for the European Championships in May. So, again, that’s just the focus again in my training, making sure I’m ready for those as well.”

Beyond that, Hynd is still undecided about what his future entails. He’s dipped his toe in the water of motivational speaking but maintains that, in an ideal world, he’d still like to remain in swimming in some capacity.

“I still think I’ll be involved in the sport in some regard whatever happens,” he says.

“I’m just passing on that message and hopefully inspiring people to make positive changes in their life. Whether that be in sport or anything else, it’s something that I’m really passionate about so that’s definitely that’s going to be in my future.”

Harriet Stallard: combining football with a new passion – cheerleading

Although its inclusion at Tokyo 2020 is not yet guaranteed, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has given cheerleading provisional status as an Olympic sport.

In this video, Harriet Stallard – who recently joined UAL’s cheer team – tells Elephant Sport why people should give cheerleading a chance to establish itself as a sport. Stallard, who plays football as well, also talks about how cheer has given her the opportunity to meet new people and improve her fitness.

 

 

‘Surfing can ride the Olympic wave at Tokyo 2020’

Chris Moar Aguiar catches up with former professional surfer Sofia Marques to learn more about surfing becoming an Olympic sport and its long-term future.

Sofia surfed in competitions for 15 years after mastering the sport on the beaches of her native Portugal. She’s lived for long periods in England and Australia, but now resides in a little apartment in Coristanco, Spain.

Catch the interview here:

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‘Rio was one of the scariest experiences ever’

Representing your country at any major sporting event is bound to generate nerves, but for Team GB wheelchair racer Ben Rowlings the 2016 Paralympics took that to another level. 

“Rio was one of the scariest experiences ever,” he told me. “To go to my first [Paralympic] games, with all the expectations and hype around it, was a really weird feeling.

“If I’m honest, was overwhelming, waiting under the stadium and hearing the crowd erupting from the race before was scary and something I really wasn’t ready for.”

Rowlings competed in the T34 class 100m and 800m events, but sadly wasn’t able to add to the three bronze medals he won at this year’s IPC Athletics European Championships in Grosetto, Italy.

Nonetheless, the 20-year-old from Shropshire was overwhelmed by the warm acclaim received by Team GB’s Olympians and Paralympians on their return home.

Inspirational

“The reception I’ve had since I’ve got back from Rio has been overwhelming, I never thought it would have the impact it has,” he said.

“You get to do some amazing things like going on the pitch at Wembley at half-time during rugby matches.

“I didn’t care who had beaten me, I had medalled at my first major championships for my country”

Then, on the flip-side, you have kids coming up to you telling you that you’ve inspired them to get into sport or try something new, and that hits home and makes everything worthwhile.”

Rowlings, who has cerebral palsy, was once one of those kids, waiting to be inspired to find a sport he could excel in.

Initially, he thought it might be swimming, but a severe allergic reaction to chlorine left him sneezing every time he went into the pool.

This led him to try wheelchair  racing, and the switch paid off.

Quickest

Coached by Job King at the Coventry Godiva Harriers club since 2011, he showed consistency in 100m, 200m and 800m, moving up the world rankings and competing at meets in Dubai and Switzerland.

As the hard work continued, Rowlings made it into the Team GB lottery-funded World Class Performance Programme in 2014 and raced at that year’s IPC European Championships in Swansea, coming third in the T34 800m final..

“It was a race that could do so much and define my season,” he recalled. ” I can’t remember much, other than the gun sounding and going out hard, the quickest I have ever pushed.

“The rest of the race is a blur, all I know is I crossed the line having won bronze and that it was the best feeling ever.  I didn’t care who had beaten me, I had medalled at my first major championships for my country.”

Training

Rowling is currently training hard, and looking to build on the experience he gained in Rio this summer as he aims for more medals.

“There are days when my body just aches and you just don’t want to move, but you have to just get up and go”

“At the moment I’m in my off-season so I’m doing lots of miles, anywhere between 15-20 a day, with lots of hours in the gym on top.

“As we get into the season, the mileage will come down as we get ready to sharpen up for the the major events, but I’ll be training 2-3 times a day six days a week all year round.

“Day in day out it’s just time management trying to manage training 2-3 times a day, working part-time and recovery is tough.

“There are days when my body just aches and you just don’t want to move, but you have to just get up and go.”

London, then Tokyo

With the experience of Rio 2016 now under his belt, Rowling is setting his sights on next year’s IPC World Athletics Championships in London.

“I’m just taking it one season at a time, so in 2017 we have the Worlds in London and that will be huge, racing in front of a home crowd.

“But looking forward I want to make the squad for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, and once I’m there perform better than I did in Rio.

“I have a massive point to prove because I didn’t race as well as I know I could have in Brazil.”

You can follow Ben Rowlings on Twitter @BenRowlings and on Instagram @benrowlings.

‘We had this look in our eyes like this is our day’

“You’ve got to believe in yourself because if you don’t believe it’s going to happen and you don’t make it happen, it won’t.”

Nicola White is recalling the advice her mother gave her long before she won women’s hockey Olympic gold in Rio de Janiero.

White lives by those words and is honest when discussing the turnaround that led her from failing to make her first England trials at the age of 15 to becoming Great Britain’s hero as her late equaliser to make it 3-3 in the final against reigning Olympic champions the Netherlands forced the game to a shootout decider.

White and the GB hockey squad ensured hockey became compelling viewing in Rio. When it comes to discussing the team’s journey from London in 2012 to Brazil four years later, White’s steely undercurrent and strong motivation becomes apparent.

“My journey wasn’t particularly perfect,” she admits. “I had my first England trials when I was 15 and I didn’t make it. I didn’t get my second England trials until I was 19 and I was quite a latecomer really because under 16’s and under 18’s is crucial for the development. To come in at under 21 level fairly late, I was really lucky.

“One of the things that we worked really hard since London was our culture. There’s 31 of us that train and it was sometimes hard to agree on something and get the best out of ourselves, but we improved our values and we embraced it.”

Competition 

Her and the team’s success is a result of perseverance and dedication but it is also a tale of competition. “Everyone in the squad had a responsibility to do their best,” she says.

“We wanted to make a difference and it created this massive bond of trust within the team. I think one of the most amazing things was stepping onto the pitch having built this culture. The competition for places was so high and we used to play high-paced games on a Thursday within the squad.

“The coaches would send out the game plan on a Wednesday night so we knew what we had to bring and what we had to do.

“Everyone brought their best games, and it ensured this amazing standard of hockey and brought out the best in us all.

“These little things impact hugely because when you get into an Olympic final, the pressure is massive but you know how to deal with it.”

Golden moment 

White is still overwhelmed by the team’s stunning success this summer. When it came to Rio and taking on the Netherlands, who were vying for a third Olympic gold in a row and huge favourites, there was a determination among the GB players.

The game was drifting away at one point, but Britain’s never-say-die attitude led by an indomitable White performance, paid off when she made it 3-3 in the final period.

Goalkeeper Maddie Hinch then pulled off some stunning saves in the shootout as the GB girls achieved history.

White remains refreshingly low-key about her golden moment. 

The forward says: “I knew we had eight minutes to go and we were losing against the reigning champions of the world.

“Holland are historically a really good team and I was so glad we played them because they were the elephant [in the room] and people thought we couldn’t beat them when it came to the crunch.

“All I remember is we had a short corner and I was just on red alert, and I’ve never been on red alert like that before and I thought if we can get this level, I knew we would hold on and it would go to penalties.

“The ball just fell and I put it towards the goal and I thought nothing else of it. Everyone’s faces were the same as we had this look in our eyes like this is our day. We just had this confidence about us.”

Overwhelming 

Looking back on the summer heroics, White admits the feeling of winning an Olympic gold medal has only just recently sunk in.

“It’s a real cliche, but it’s pretty much a dream come true for me and my team-mates. I’ve started to come back down to earth now but at the time it was just so overwhelming.

“I had so many emotions going through my head when we actually won it. It was just sort of flicking from happiness and emotion and I had happy tears, but it was an amazing experience.

“The girls who took the penalties were confident and I knew that if we stuck to what we did, we would win.

“We all knew, as much as we were nervous at the time, that if anyone was going to win it, it would be us. We are so used to that feeling of being under pressure in penalties that we thrived on it.”

Support

The support of her family has been key for White, particularly in picking her up from that England trials rejection aged 15.

“My mum has supported me massively on my journey. I remember she used to tell me a lot when I was young that you’ve got to believe in yourself because if you don’t believe it’s going to happen and you don’t make it happen, it won’t.

“That’s probably what’s stuck with me the most. Her telling me that if I keep working and don’t give up in the first hurdle, it’ll all pay off, and she was right.”

Spotlight

With success comes greater attention, and White agrees that more interest from the media and general public in hockey can only be a positive thing for her sport.

“We have gained lots of media attention as a team,” she says. “That’s really good for our sport, and I think the biggest thing is how much the sport has grown.

“I guess the legacy started at London 2012, when we won bronze, and has grown since our gold medal.

“When we go around the country, people tell us how they didn’t watch hockey before but now they love it.

“People have warmed to us and that’s probably the biggest change because people are now talking about it.

“When I say ‘I’m Nicola White, I’m one of the hockey girls’, they’re like ‘we love you’! Previously they would have been confused as many people didn’t know about us, so it’s nice to now hear them say that.”

Mindset

As a seven-year-old in Shaw and Crompton, Greater Manchester, White dreamt of being a hockey player.

White and the rest of the GB women’s hockey team

“I was lucky that my school played hockey because a lot of schools didn’t,” she explains. “I was lucky to get involved with it at such a young age, and that my teacher was involved in the pathway to internationals.

“She was in the county and regional set-ups, had the best hockey knowledge and knew where to go and how to make it happen. She guided and started me off.

“Skills-wise you’ve got to have a certain talent to be good at any sport. What I’ve realised on my journey is that your mindset is just as important.

“It’s all good and well having the talent but you’ve got to apply yourself. Every day you have to wake up and want to give it your all, and it’s that commitment, that desire and hunger that’s needed to be successful.”

Women in sport 

As a youngster, the GB hockey star idolised female athletes such as Kelly Holmes and Tina Cullen, and says she has seen progress in the amount of media attention women in sport receive.

“I think there’s more of an acceptance that women are successful and need to be given as much credit as the men get, and it’s a major thing that’s been highlighted probably in the last decade.

“Women haven’t had as much recognition as they should have had. People are pushing for more equality. Tennis now offers the same wages for men and women, and things are becoming more equal.

“That should be the norm and moving forward, I think it will be. It’s being driven by the successes we have had in football, hockey, rugby union and other sports.

“I love it and I’m so proud because that’s all we ever wanted. We just want people to accept us for what we’ve done and give us the recognition.”

Tokyo 2020 

White regularly refers to her competitiveness in her downtime when playing other sports like tennis and golf with her two brothers, but the main objective is to get prepared for another four years of gruelling build-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Preparation is well underway, and White says it will be harder to stay at the top of the tree in 2020 because everyone will be aiming to knock GB off their perch.

“We have to not just be happy with the gold we won, but say to ourselves that we can win it again”

“It sounds so scary thinking about how we will be back in four years time,” she says. “No doubt we will be looking for a gold medal because you cannot go from this success to not target another gold medal.

“I remember our coach Danny Kerry, after the Olympics we sat in a room in Rio and he was talking about success on success and how much of a difficult challenge it is and that’s what we are accepting.

‘As much as the journey is hard to get to the top, it is much harder to stay there. You’re now at the top and everyone’s chasing you, so it’ll be about rebuilding the culture, replacing the players who have retired with new players.

“There’s nothing holding us back now so we have to relish it. We have to use it and not just be happy with the gold we won, but say to ourselves that we can win it again. That’ll be the challenge but we are aiming to go for it again.”

You can follow Nicola White on Twitter @NicolaWhite28 and on Facebook @NicolaWhiteGB28 

‘I was naive about Paralympic sport – I thought it was easy’

Athletes across the globe dream of one day having the opportunity to showcase their talents to the world whilst wearing their nation colours, but for table tennis player Aaron McKibbin, that dream has already become a reality – twice.

At the London 2012 Paralympics, McKibbin fulfilled that ambition, but his adventure had the happiest of endings as together with GB team-mates Ross Wilson and Will Bayley, he clinched a bronze medal in the men’s team class 6-8 competition (moderate to severe limb impairment).

“It was a bit crazy, we didn’t expect it [to take a medal home],” he explains.

“We went in pretty blind; we were young. And being a home games, which was an amazing experience, we didn’t really know what was going on. It felt like a dream!”

Rio 2016

Fast forward four years to the Rio 2016 Paralympics, and the 25-year-old was part of the team that repeated that medal-winning feat, but he admits to a feeling of disappointment at only managing to finish third again.

©Supercharge ParalympicsGB

“We were so close to beating Ukraine in the doubles, and if we’d done that, we were most likely going to win the match and play Sweden in the final for gold,” explains McKibbin.

“On the other hand, to take a bronze there meant so much more than in London. The teams we beat along the way were so strong, and we saw our draw and knew it was going to be a tough ask.

“We beat Belgium, the former world champions in the first round. Then we beat Spain, the London 2012 silver medallists in the quarter-final, and then lost to the gold medallists in the semi-final.

“Finally, we had to beat China, the current world champions, who had the Rio 2016 gold medallist in their team.”

Tokyo 2020

After two consecutive bronze medals, looking forward to the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, McKibbin has his eyes on an upgrade.

“I’m very determined [to qualify for the 2020 Paralympics],” McKibbin emphasises.

“I reached the quarter-final of singles in Rio, and my aim is to be competing for a singles medal at Tokyo 2020.”

Should McKibbin qualify for Tokyo 2020, it would be his third Paralympic Games – something he admits he never thought possible.

“My aim of going to London was simply because I had a dream of playing on the world stage and at a home games,” says the Londoner. “I didn’t even know about Brazil until after London 2012!”

European Championships and PTT Open

Whilst Rio and London are McKibbin’s biggest successes so far, they are not the only ones – he has also won medals at the 2015 European Para Table Tennis Championships and China PTT Open.

“They can’t compare to a Paralympics or World Championships. They are the most special competitions you can play in.”

“To win medals at any competition isn’t easy; the standard is getting harder and harder,” McKibbin says.

“Winning the China Open was possibly my most pleasing result outside of the Paralympics. I beat the world number two from China in the final and I had to win the competition to seal my qualification for Rio.”

While McKibbin clearly enjoyed those other triumphs, he admits neither comes close to the experience of Paralympic success.

“They can’t compare – things like the Paralympics or world championships are the most special competitions you can play in.”

Transition

Winning medals playing table tennis was not always McKibbin’s goal, however.

As a youngster, he dreamed of success on the tennis court, until he was forced to quit at the age of 14 because of his bilateral talipes – the medical condition more commonly known as club foot.

“It was was pretty hard, I couldn’t achieve what I wanted,” he admits.

“I was very naive to Paralympic sport – I thought it was easy and not serious”

“I fell out of love with the sport as no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t able to compete with the people I used to beat. My dream as a child was to play at Wimbledon so, once I knew that wasn’t a reality, then it [the decision to quit tennis] was sort of made for me.”

It was not until his first international table tennis tournament in Romania that his ambitions to compete at the highest level were reignited.

“I wasn’t really expecting much. I went because I was offered and thought it would be a cool experience,” he says.

“I was very naive about Paralympic sport; I thought it was easy and not serious. But once I arrived and saw how high the level was, how professional it was, I made my decision [aiming to compete at London 2012].”

Challenges

McKibbin eventually moved up to the National Table Tennis Centre in Sheffield to train full-time in a bid to make his Paralympic dream come true, and he admits the step into the unknown was a tough experience.

“At first I didn’t [find it difficult to leave London for Sheffield], I just made the decision. I needed to go and that’s it.

©Wikimedia Commons

“But then I think after a while I did. I had never left home before, and I was suddenly living 170 miles away from my family, looking after myself, while not knowing everyone that well being so new to the team.”

Several successful years later, McKibbin faces new challenges, such as balancing his time between playing table tennis and studying for a part-time Sports Science degree at Loughborough University.

“It’s hard as I have to drive to Loughborough two times a week, so it’s a lot of driving. But it’s something I must do as I know I a need a degree for my future,” he explained.

“The key is being organised. I have my year planned out; I’m in good contact with my tutors and lecturers. I’ve started back full-time training now, and it is hard after a long day of lots of physical work to come home and focus on learning.

“But I will find a way. I’m not the first to do it and sure won’t be the last.”

Next generation

At 25, and with several international honours to his name, McKibbin is in a good position to give advice to the next generation of future Paralympians – and his key message is the importance of a strong work ethic and mental resilience.

“It will take a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice but, if you have a dream, you should go for it and never let anyone tell you otherwise,” he explained.

“There will be lots of ups and downs, but it’s the down periods that make you learn the most about yourself. Enjoy the lows because they make the success taste that much sweeter!”

Aaron is on Twitter @Kibsta91. Featured image ©Supercharge ParalympicsGB

Walton intent on making a splash

Rio 2016 might be on the horizon, but swimmer Martyn Walton has already embarked on the road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Like many young boys, he began his sporting life as a keen footballer, but after taking the plunge with his school’s swimming programme he hasn’t looked back.

“It’s a very humbling experience as I know not many people get to experience what I have”

“It was at my local pool in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and the instructors there asked if I would join the swimming team. I played football like most boys at that age, around seven, but since I was terrible at it, the decision of what sport to choose was easy,” he told me.

It wasn’t till age of 10 that Walton started to think about whether he could have a future in the sport after exceeding expectations at a County Championships.

“I decided to move to Hatfield Swimming Club as, at the time and still to this day, they are one of the best in the country. The following year, I won the two golds at the British national championships in the 11-year-old category.

“The transition to Hatfield and that success is when I began to take my swimming seriously.”

Excelled

Since then, Walton’s progress in the pool has seen him become part of a talented Great Britain team.

“I have competed and been on the podium for GB numerous times at junior level, and it is a great honour to represent your country in a sport you love,” he said.

“It’s also a very humbling experience as I know not many people get to experience what I have, so it’s an extra incentive to perform on a stage like that. I feel extremely privileged, but a senior podium place at a major meet is the goal.”

Last year, Walton competed at the inaugural European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he excelled by picking up five medals. Did he exceed his own expectations?

“I was very confident entering that meet. I had my eyes on medals and I didn’t want just the one. Four were in relays and one individually, so it was great to be on the podium with team-mates and by myself as that was my first individual international medal.”

Pressure

Despite that first individual international honour, it’s clear to see that Walton thrives on the relay races.

“I love a good relay, there is something about the atmosphere and pressure to perform which is surreal. I have been on the top of the podium the last three times I have competed in this, even internationally, and I’ve shared those three podiums with my current flatmate in Stirling, Duncan Scott.”

“I’m not counting out Rio but it will be extremely difficult to qualify as my peak four-year Olympic cycle will come round for 2020”

Walton emphasises the importance of team chemistry in relay races. “I would definitely say it’s massive, and the fact that I know my team-mates and that we can trust each other to do the job required is huge to our success.”

As well as Baku, he was also involved in the British Swimming Summer Championships where he collected gold in 200m individual medley as well as winning silver in the 200m backstroke.

Exposure

But, at the tender age of 17, it was on that big stage in Baku where he took his chance with both hands, giving him a taste of what things could be like in the future.

“The experience was great and the exposure to the media was a lot more than I expected. Sharing the athlete’s village with Nicola Adams and other senior successful athletes was a great insight into what it takes to make it and the professionalism required to be at that level.”

The young swimmer is well aware of the challenges that are ahead with Rio 2016 in the summer he knows the task he faces to qualify

“The Olympic trials are six weeks and obviously qualification for Rio 2016 is my main aim, but actually there is an opportunity to qualify for the European Championships, which would then be my first senior international meet.

“I’m not counting out Rio but it will be extremely difficult to qualify, for me as my peak four-year Olympic cycle will come round for 2020. This is what I work for every day for and I know what I need to work on and where I need to develop, but I think patience is the key.

Campbell sets sights on Tokyo 2020

Meet Taylor Campbell.

He is a Team GB hammer thrower with a huge future ahead of him. In 2015, Campbell broke the British junior record ten times on eight different occasions.

Originally from Windsor, he is currently combining his sporting goals through athletics with studying for a degree at Loughborough University.

Rio 2016 has come too soon for the 19 year old who is currently ranked eighth in the world in the under-23 age group. However, he is more than on course to be at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

I spoke to him about how he got into his event, his sporting journey so far, what his training routine involves, and his main targets for the future.

 

Tell me about your athletics career to date: how did it start, at what age, and what made you get into hammer throwing?

I started athletics at the age of nine. My brother is a sprinter so I’ve always gone down to the track with him. But in terms of doing my event, I started that when I was 12. I tried a lot of the other events and I wasn’t enjoying them, but when I picked up the hammer I enjoyed it so I’ve been doing it ever since.

How old were you when you became part of the GB squad?

I was 17 I was part of the GB youth squad that went to World Youth Championships in Ukraine.

How often do you train, and do you find it physically demanding?

It’s massively demanding! I train six days a week and they’re all double sessions. So I’ll do 12 sessions in total – everything’s physically demanding. If you’re not in the gym you’re out throwing. It’s really tough.

What motivates you when the training becomes difficult?

For me,an Olympic gold. You’ve got to have your eyes set on that – everyone wants to win a medal. That’s the thing that motivates me and drives me through the hard sessions.

Where do you train?

I’m based up in Loughborough I train at the high performance centre which is the national governing bodies’ athletics training facility.

What time do you wake up and go to sleep?

It depends if I have lectures: it could 8.30am. If I have training I get up around 10am and get down to training for 11am, and I’m usually in bed by 10.30pm.

Do you stick to a specific diet plan?

There’s not so much a written plan. But for me I make sure I get the carbs in for the morning for energy and then for the rest of the day I eat a lot of protein. I go through about 12 eggs a day. It’s vital whilst training.

Do you have to be hard on yourself socially in terms of going out?

Yeah, I’ve got to really limit myself. Saturdays are the only time I go out really because Sundays is my only day off. I’ve got to be really strict with myself, especially around my mates, to keep myself in the right shape.

What criteria must you hit for you to qualify for competitions?

In athletics you have age groups at the moment I just moved up from the under-20 age group. Last year for me to go to the European Junior Championships, I had to throw 71.5m and I threw 78m so I was selected.  Also, there is funding standards – you have to meet the criteria to get money, so for me to get the funding I’m on now I either had to get a medal at the European Juniors or a British record and I managed to get a British record.

What are your chances for Rio?

For me it is one Olympic cycle early. For my event you have to be mature physically and technically, so I’ve just got to be patient – we all peak at different ages. I wasn’t strong at a young age so I’ve just got to be patient and wait it out. 2020 is where I am looking at, definitely.

Who are the main rival countries that you compete against?

It is a very diverse event a lot of countries have good throwers. But the main competition probably comes from Hungary and Argentina.

How many hammer throwers are in a GB Olympic squad?

They take three people to the Olympics. It all comes down to who can throw the qualifying standard. It is tough, and British Athletics set the standards high. They don’t want to just take people to competitions, they want you to medal.

Are you superstitious?

I used to be like that, pack my bag a certain way, wear a specific pair of socks but not anymore. I’ve taken all of that out and just gone with my ability on the day really.

Finally, what has been your favourite moment as an athlete – something that you’ll never forget?

Probably making the World Junior finals in 2014. I was the youngest in the competition and I went in ranked 17th in the World and  I came out ranked ninth, so yeah going up eight places was  a great achievement for me.

Follow Taylor on Twitter @TaylorLC1996 and Instagram @taylorc96