Wrestling: Team GB's Olga Butkevych relying on home support for inspiration

 

Britain's Ukraine-born wrestler Olga Butkevych hopes the home crowd get behind her when she takes to the mat at the Olympics next week.

Butkevych, who will take part in the 55kg freestyle event on Thursday, is the only wrestler in Team GB, but her inclusion in the squad has proved controversial.

Butkevych is one of a number of foreign-born wrestlers who came to Britain five years ago originally as sparring partners, but ended up representing Britain.

The fact that Butkevych was born 5,000 miles from London in Zaporizhia means she is likely to not be as well received as the likes of Jessica Ennis and Sir Chris Hoy have been at the Games, but she hopes the crowd get behind her as she looks to win Britain's first medal in the sport since 1984.

She said: "The home support would really help me.

"When everyone hears the crowd it pushes you forward. When you are tired in wrestling all you want to do is just stop but if someone shouts 'come on, come on' you find some power, so that will really help me."

British Wrestling have consistently defended their decision to include foreign-born wrestlers in the GB elite squad despite originally vowing that the athletes would only be used as training partners.

The body's performance director Shaun Morley does not think Butkevych's birthplace will matter when her name is announced at ExCeL on Thursday.

"I don't see that being an issue," Morley said. "The crowd will embrace her and it will give her a massive boost.

"There are many athletes who are in Team GB that are born outside the UK and every one of them has been embraced here. Olga is British. She wants to do very well for Team GB.

"Like every other athlete over the past 10 days, the crowd will embrace her and that will really inspire her to go and perform well."

Butkevych, who trains at British Wrestling's academy in Salford, was chosen to represent Team GB over a number of home-grown wrestlers, but she insists she has every right to compete for her adopted nation.

"Why should I not represent Britain?" she said.

"Everyone has choices in life. I came here five years ago, I have lived here and I am happy that people are so kind and friendly to me so I feel good about it."

Butkevych has enjoyed a successful run up to London, winning bronze in the European Championships and coming second in the Olympic test event last December.

She finished third at the Polish Open in a world-class field, defeating many of her London 2012 rivals along the way, and has also put herself through two gruelling training camps in Ukraine.

All that has left the wrestler feeling positive about her chances of winning a medal next week.

"I have rested and trained well so I am feeling really good," she said.

"Now I am here in London it feels more real. I am more nervous but I have been impressed. It's a magic place."

PA

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