Minor sports are alive and kicking as the Jade Jones effect spreads
A post-Olympic buzz boosts clubs across Britain, as Charlie Cooper discovers
Taekwondo instructor Sean Onipede is waiting for his students to arrive on a quiet evening at an unassuming sports centre in east London. "There's another new face," he says, watching the slow trickle of students walking through the door with their kit bags slung over their shoulders. "Haven't seen her before."
His assembled class at the Epicentre hall in Leytonstone ranges from teenage red belts with dreams of emulating Jade Jones, Team GB's Olympic Taekwondo gold medallist, down to children as young as seven in tiny white uniforms. "We're getting two types of people calling at the moment," says Mr Onipede. "Those who say they've seen it on the television and want to give it a go and those who used to do it and now want to get back in – both because of the Olympics."
Marketed as the Games that would "inspire a generation", these are the kind of scenes that the Olympics' organisers will be hoping to see replicated all over the country now that London 2012 has come to a close. While the biggest heroes of the Games, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis, performed their feats on the track and the bulk of Britain's medals came, predictably, from the velodrome and the rowing lake, a number of smaller sports also enjoyed a rare moment in the spotlight, which they are hoping to capitalise on.
Inquiries from people keen to take up Taekwondo have "markedly perked up" since 19-year-old Jones, from north Wales, clinched Olympic gold, said the president of the sport's governing body, Adrian Tranter. "To have such role models as Jade and Lutalo Muhammad [who won bronze] is fantastic and now we're hoping to maximise on that Olympic bounce," he said. Other sports are emerging from the shadows thanks to Olympic figureheads. Trap shooter Peter Wilson has prompted "a massive influx" in inquiries about membership of clay pigeon shooting organisations, said national CEO Nick Fellows, and the sport's governing body is planning a new county-level league and regional trials.
Canoeing clubs have reported class numbers swelled by children on summer holidays who have watched the white water exploits of Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott on the television. In boxing, there is hope that Britain's gold medal-winning boxer Nicola Adams can inspire a sea change in the sport, with more women than ever before expected to sign up for amateur clubs.
"The Olympics have provided a shop window for the sport and many people that have never previously seen women's boxing or heard of the Team GB athletes have now seen for themselves what a fantastic sport it is," said Richard Caborn, former sports minister and chairman of the Amateur Boxing Association of England.
Sports leaders across many of Britain's more obscure Olympic disciplines say that for the "Olympic bounce" to be preserved in the long-term, more funding will be required from UK Sport and Sport England. "Football and rugby are funded to the tune of millions of pounds a year," said Adrian Tranter. "Our funding for grassroots development of Taekwondo is £200,000. Just a minor portion of their funding would make a major difference to our sport. All we can do is lobby Sport England as best we can. But Jade Jones has certainly helped our cause."
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