London Eye: How Jason Roberts is assisting family dream


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The Independent Online

Just like the 200m runner James Ellington, triple jumper Yasmine Regis faced the prospect of preparing for the challenge of Olympic year without any Lottery funding. The sprinter put himself up for auction on eBay and landed £31,500 worth of backing from Will King, the man behind King of Shaves. The hopper, stepper and jumper found a saviour in her brother.

You might have heard of him: Jason Roberts MBE, the Blackburn Rovers striker who has taken on a sideline role as a BBC radio and television pundit in the twilight of his playing career.

"Yeah, my brother's supporting me," Regis told London Eye. "He understands my dreams and my goals and where I'm trying to reach. We tried to get other sponsors but he just stepped in and said, 'Look, I'll support you,' which is great."

The siblings have both reached international level in their sports. Regis has competed for Great Britain at the European Cup and for England at the Commonwealth Games. Roberts has won 35 caps for Grenada. Both have the same mother but different fathers – hence the different surnames. "We grew up together," Regis said. "We see each other regularly."

The pair are part of the sporting dynasty that produced Cyrille Regis, the former West Bromwich Albion and England striker, and John Regis, the British 200m record holder and 1988 Olympic 4x100m relay silver medallist. "Cyrille is my uncle and John my cousin," Yasmine said. "I speak to John a lot for advice.

"My brother and I were talking just the other week, wondering why our family is so sporty. We came to the conclusion that it's not just in the genes; that it's down to having the mentality that we can achieve whatever we want to achieve. If you tell me I can't do it, then I'm going to prove to you I can do it – that sort of thing.

"We've had that instilled in us. And me being the youngest – having seen John, Jason and my uncle doing so well – I know I have the same blood in me and there's no reason why I can't do it. Just train hard and persevere."

Since last autumn Yasmine has been working hard under the direction of Peter Stanley, the genial triple-jump guru who transformed Jonathan Edwards into a world record breaker. A native Londoner who graduated from Texas A&M University last year, she relocated to Tyneside to join Stanley's training group at Gateshead International Stadium, which also includes Nadia Williams, the British No 2 in her event.

"Peter has a great background, with what he did with Jonathan Edwards," Regis said. "I got to know him when he was an England coach at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and he's a really good guy. We have a great rapport.

"I've only just started training with him and I've learnt a lot. He's shown me a lot of things in my technique that I never saw before. It's been breakthrough stuff for me. I've got a lot to learn but it's all going really well."

The immediate target for the 26-year-old is the indoor season. Last weekend she finished runner-up to Williams at the Northern Indoor Championships in Sheffield. Next weekend she competes for England in Vienna and Bratislava.

Making the Great Britain team for those home Olympics is the main aim in 2012, naturally. To do that, Regis – who has a lifetime best of 13.85m – will probably need to achieve the A standard qualifying mark of 14.30m. Now that the veteran Cuban-born, London-based Yamile Aldama has joined the GB ranks, the B standard of 14.10m, which would allow just one athlete to be selected, is unlikely to prove sufficient.

Not that Regis is complaining about the knock-on effect of Aldama's switch in allegiance. "I don't see it as a disadvantage," she said. "In fact, I see it as a definite advantage for the Great Britain team. She's a great athlete and she's raised the bar for the rest of us.

"I was aiming for that A standard before she switched, so my goal hasn't changed. My aim is still the same: to make the 2012 Olympics."

Olympic news you missed this week...

Janet Evans is not the first all-time great to shoot for Olympic selection two decades and more on from their last golden moment at the Games.

In making the grade for the US swimming trials, however, the 40-year-old mother of two has already got farther on the Olympic comeback trail than Mark Spitz and Ed Moses managed.

Evans won three golds as a 17-year-old in Seoul in 1988 (400m individual medley, 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle), successfully defended her 800m crown in Barcelona in 1992 and also swam for the US in Atlanta in 1988.

Last Sunday she clocked 8min 49.05sec for the 800m free at the Texas Grand Prix in Austin, finishing inside the qualifying time for the US trials in Omaha, Nebraska, in June (8:50.49).

Spitz, who won a record seven golds in the pool at the Munich Olympics in 1972, was coaxed out of retirement at the age of 41 in 1991, when the film-maker Bud Greenspan wagered $1m that he couldn't make the US team for the Barcelona Olympics the following year. Moses, winner of the 400m hurdles at the 1976 and 1984 Games, announced in 2003 that he would be attempting to compete in the 2004 Games in Athens at the age of 48. His proposed comeback came to nought.

Meanwhile, Andreas Krieger has written to the International Association of Athletics Federations asking the world governing body of track and field to erase the world junior shot put record that still stands to his name. The world junior women's shot put record, that is.

What’s coming up...

The 2012 track and field indoor season is slowly getting in to swing. Last weekend Jessica Ennis won the shot in the Northern Championships at Sheffield and the entry list for this weekend's South of England Championships at Lee Valley includes Simeon Williamson.

The tag-line next to Williamson's name on his Twitter page says "the forgotten man" and it has been two and a half years now since the Highgate Harrier was last in the spotlight. In July 2009 he beat Dwain Chambers to win the UK Championship 100m title, clocking 10.05sec into a headwind. He had a knee operation in 2010 and made only a handful of low-key appearances last year.

Fresh from a mid-winter training camp with Asafa Powell in Jamaica, the forgotten man of British sprinting intends to blow off the cobwebs this weekend before returning to international class competition in the 60m at the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham on 18 February.

Who's up?

Jessica Ennis Broke out of heavy winter training to win the shot at the Northern Indoor Championships in Sheffield – getting in some acclimatisation at the top of the podium.

Paul Wycherley The GB sprint canoeist kayaked across the English Channel in a new record time last Sunday.

Janet Evans Making the US swim trials at 40 was no mean feat by the four-times Olympic gold medallist.

Who's down?

Martin Fagan The Irish marathon runner has been banned for two years after testing positive for EPO. The GB rhythmic gymnastics team failed to qualify for the home Games, falling 0.273 marks short of the qualifying score.

Ian Thorpe The Thorpedo's comeback at the Victorian State Champs saw the Aussie swim ace fail to qualify for the final of the 100m freestyle and he finished fifth in the 200m free.