Revisiting Team GB's 'up-and-comers': Did their Olympic dreams come true?
Exactly two years before Danny Boyle lit up the skies of
East London with an opening ceremony to rival the best, The Independent explored
the Olympic dreams of Team GB's up-and-comers.
After 16 days in the pursuit of glory, we revisit the same athletes to see how they fared.
The Olympic veteran clinched bronze at Eton Dorney after returning to rowing from ten years of retirement and spending the last two years fighting for a spot in Team GB. “Since 2010 I established a place in the 8,” he said, “and I was a solid member of the team: I was never the top guy, never the bottom guy.” It may not be the gold that fuelled his return, but for Greg “it was entirely worth it, if only to feel justified in the collective glory of this Olympics.
His eyes turn now to a well-earned holiday, a puppy for his children, and to delivering the Olympic legacy, encouraging children to aspire towards the lifestyle of “olympians, rather than footballers and footballers wives.”
As a modern pentathlete Heather won silver in Beijing and in 2010 London couldn't come quickly enough. However, after a tough season and a disappointing World Championships she failed to make the two-woman team. “Im sorry I couldn't add to the Team GB medals,” she said, “I didn't even make the team and that’s a big disappointment.”
Despite missing out on a British bib, Heather has made herself a key player in Olympic punditry. “I've become a bit of a media whore,” she joked. After gaining her press accreditation last week she helped report for the BBC and Radio 5live.
The team sprint world record holder had perhaps a harder Games than any of Team GB's 541 athletes. After breezing through qualification and the quarter-finals, Varnish and her partner Victoria Pendleton were disqualified for switching leader outside the permitted zone.
“I have no issue with the decision,” she said, “even though I don’t intend ever looking at the video, it would just break my heart. I’m devastated but you must have rules and regulations in sport and we broke them no matter how much it hurts me to say that.”
The daughter of a cycling family, Jess has the sport in her blood and is now looking forward to Rio in 2016.
For the midlands cyclist London 2012 had the added significance of his inaugural games. As a member of the Men's Pursuit team alongside Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Peter Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas, Andy had the opportunity to contribute to the gold they went on to win last week. However, having failed to qualify for the four-man racing troupe Tenant was forced to watch from the sidelines as Team GB rode into the record books. He will return as a professional racer for Ralpha-Candor-Sharp next year.
After reaching the K1 final the Kayaker had the opportunity to add a fourth medal to his gold from Beijing and two bronzes from Sydney.
However, after undergoing surgery on his right pectoral last year, he finished a disappointing 8th. “The last couple of years has been a bit of an uphill struggle,” he said. “Firstly to make it back into a kayak after 2 months in a sling, then to make the GB team before the battle to qualify for the Games.
“I'd love to compete in Rio,” he added. “Without doubt I will keep a big involvement in my sport and the games. If not as an athlete maybe as a coach or team doc!”
The backstroke specialist arrived at the Olympic village no stranger to success, having medalled early in his career. “London 2012 was always going to be special,” he said, “I was really excited about coming to the Games, and its lived up to and beyond everything I thought it would be: from the collection of the team kit to first time I walked out in front of that amazing crowd.”
In the 100m he finished 5th and narrowly missed bronze in the 4x100m medley relay. “My next target is definitely Rio,” he concluded. “I can't wait, it'll be a hard four years, lots more training, but I love racing.”
The Bath-based swimmer competed in the 200m and 100m backstroke, narrowly missing the finals in the latter. “I'm disappointed with my swims,” he revealed, “I was more than capable to compete in the final, but my primary target was to make the team and do it in style”
Following the success his training partner Michael Jamieson, Chris will keep the same routine for the foreseeable future despite fitness issues this Summer. “It's been an emotional year, I'll be back in early mid-September and looking forward to the next four years: time to find the winning swim and perfect it.”
The 29-year-old fought hard for his spot in Team GB, but was eventually appointed the bitter-sweet position of the spare man in the men's 8. “I was incredibly disappointed to not be in the starting team,” he said, “It was like someone saying: 'okay, you're not going to get a medal today'.”
The glory of the show compensated for Marcus' loss. “It was amazing,” he explained, “the volunteers were exceptional, you got a standing ovation just for reaching the centre.”
Adding to the experience, the rower was finally able to taste success, if not on the traditional sense: “getting mobbed at the Olympic park because everyone thought I was Greg Rutherford, thats a moment I'll never forget.”
The boxer emerged from obscurity in 2009 with a silver medal in the European amateurs and trained hard to be awarded his country's team captaincy and the number 1 seed in the light-welterweight division.
But he lost to Mongolian advisory Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg in the quarter-final by one point, a decision Team GB appealed without success. "He's devastated because he wanted to win a medal in his home Olympics,” said Stalker's coach Dave Alloway. “He'd trained so hard for it, so to be one point away from a medal, one scoring blow, that's what hurts."
The Swansea-based 200m competitor failed in her bid to claim an individual place in Team GB. “It was really hard to watch the Olympics and not be a part of it,” she admitted.
As a world and European relay bronze medallist - and a winner of a silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games - she had hoped to at least claim a place in the relay 4x200m relay. But after a sting of illnesses it was not to be. “It was a really difficult year,” she said, “I came down with glandular fever, my immune system took a big knock.”
“But there's still other Olympics and I still feel young and capable. Jess Ennis came back from injury and won I medal, I take some confidence from that.”
Despite only committing to full-time training last year, the 18-year-old broke the GB women's weightlifting record with a clean and jerk of 121 kg and finished second in her group, nineteenth overall.
“The competition went well, but it could have gone better,” she said, “I only got 3 out of 6 lifts, and I've lifted more in training. The crowd was amazing: it was the hardest lift of my life and I could only do it because they were there.”
“The atmosphere in the camp is amazing,” she added, “especially with all the medals. I feel a bit undeserving of it, these guys are superstars, but maybe it'll be me one day.”
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