Sisters cultivate talents in field of dreams
Heptathlon, three-day eventing and rugby union – the Boggis girls have to be Britain's most remarkable sporting family
Sunday 20 December 2009
"Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters." So sang the three Beverley Sisters, whose only connection to sport, as the old-timers among us will recall, was that the tall one in the middle married the then England football captain Billy Wright. The three Boggis sisters are equally devoted but their sporting pedigree is somewhat more substantial. Tom McNab, the former national athletics coach who until recently mentored one of them, 20-year-old heptathlete Lucy, says: "They are surely Britain's most remarkable sporting family."
Lucy is up there with Jessica Ennis and Kelly Sotherton as one of the country's leading seven-event exponents, with aspirations for London 2012, Charlotte, 25, plays rugby for Bath Ladies and has represented England A, while Kitty, 27, is the first woman to ride for Britain at all levels, from Pony Club through to senior three-day eventing – in which mother Jane was also a top international rider before becoming one of Britain's first female Flat race jockeys. And last week Kitty furthered the family's sporting links by marrying former National Hunt jockey Ben King.
Sport's unique Sister Act was formed in the pretty Wiltshire village of Lower Stanton, near Chippenham, where the family farmhouse was their base, though none lives at home now.
Lucy lives in a caravan at Lee Valley to be on site for her thrice-daily training at the east London National Sports Centre under coach Julie Holman. She is ranked fifth in Britain and No 1 at Under-23 level. McNab, who discovered her as an 11-year-old javelin thrower, says: "She has the drive and talent to make it to the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics."
Ennis and Sotherton are the big wheels in the event and Lucy admits: "I don't think anyone knows who Lucy Boggis is." But they might if she walked down the street dressed as her alter-ego, Tempest from Gladiators. She became involved through her boyfriend Anthony Sawyer, who was in the early rounds of the TV series and is a contender for a Winter Olympics berth in the bob skeleton. "Being a Gladiator was good fun and something different," she says. "It also helped a bit with my profile, though I am quite happy at not being recognised." Yet.
"I've had a lot of problems with injuries until this year but now I'm fit I feel I have a good shot. In this country we are pretty strong at heptathlon and I wouldn't say I could be considered a serious rival to [world champion] Jessica yet but by 2012 or 2016 I hope to be knocking on her door.
As a full time athlete, Lucy has been helped by backing through to 2016 by Global Sports Communications, an online facilitator that matches corporate sponsors with sporting talent. Horsewoman Kitty, who also has similar support from the company, runs her own stables, which she rents from their father Peter, a former farmer who describes himself as "a bit of an entrepreneur". She also has Olympic hopes after competing successfully in several European events including, like her mother, Badminton and Burghley. "But unfortunately I have been lacking some horsepower and this is a sport where you depend entirely on your horses. I am not fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot of money on a good young horse, say a five-year-old, but I have a lot of people on the look-out for me at the moment. It's very difficult to compete against people who have a yard of 20 or 30 horses. I probably have about seven to compete with in the whole year."
Horses have been an integral part of all the girls' lives. Charlotte is a dab hand at equine art and her impressive paintings are dotted around the family home.
She has played polo here and in Argentina, but took up her main passion, rugby, at Exeter University. "One of the guys who coached the women's rugby sevens team persuaded me to have a go and I found I really enjoyed it. She has played for England Students XV and England A as an inside or outside centre.
"We haven't heard whether women's rugby is going to be included with the men's in [the Olympics in] 2016, but if it is, I'd love to be involved. Obviously my goal is to play for England but with my job [she teaches PE and biology at a boarding school near Bath] I don't really have time for all the training. But if circumstances change, who knows?"
So is there serious sibling rivalry? Not really, says Kitty, "though it's probably just as well that we all chose different sports because we would have found it hard to compete against each other." Sisters, eh?
From X Factor flop to circus act – how our 2012 hopefuls got on
One failed in the X Factor, another became a circus act. Here's how some of our other 2012 prospects have fared on the road to London:
Of all our Going for Goldsters few have been as successful as the petite pedaller who won gold, silver and bronze in the World Track Championships and double gold in the Track World Cup. The 20-year-old has moved from Otley to Belgium where she is showing a clean pair of wheels on the road with the Cervelo team.
What more can be said about Plymouth's original water babe who dives more spectacularly than Drogba? Despite not making a big splash in Beijing, where he fell out with synchro partner Blake Aldridge, he resurfaced as 10 metre world champion at 15, capturing the BBC Young Sports Personality award for the second time.
"Baby Khan" is growing up and at 18 has emerged from the shadow of Amir, making a successful senior England debut, and is on the verge of the GB squad. His father Shah says: "Harry lacked dedication in the past but he is now focused on emulating Amir by winning an Olympic medal."
The small but perfectly balanced 16-year-old from Nottingham is the Tom Daley of gymnastics. He's had a phenomenal year, winning team gold and individual silver on the pommel horse in the Australian Youth Olympics and is all-round English junior and double European youth champion. Coach Andre Popov says: "He'll be an Olympic champion."
Nicola Minichiello, Gillian Cooke
If Team GB are to win medals in the Winter Olympics, one will almost certainly come on the helter-skelter of the bob run. Driver Minichiello, 31, and 27-year-old Cooke, her brakewoman, both ex-athletes, won the world championships this year and are the first Britons to go into a Winter Games as favourites.
After making history as the first British man to win an Olympic gymnastics medal, 20-year-old Loopy Lou failed to impress the judges when he auditioned as a would-be Joe McElderry in the X Factor. Though he bettered his Beijing score in the world championships, he finished eighth, but promises to be back on song for 2012.
Still only 15, the 5ft 2in Kent schoolgirl continues to break weightlifting records at a prodigious rate – over 200 so far. She is the Commonwealth Youth champion and has eyes on the big prize in London.
New stars are emerging from the sparkling waters of British swimming and none brighter than the 19-year old backstroker from Suffolk, who produced a record-breaking swim in the world championships 200 metres on his senior international debut.
Has a hard act to follow in Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson but the 23-year-old wheelchair wizard from Blackpool hopes to follow her silver and bronze in Beijing with gold in London. Dame Tanni predicts: "Shelly is one of the athletes we'll be cheering on top of the podium."
The 29-year-old redhead from Poole bounced for Britain on the trampoline in Beijing, but not quite high enough to reach the final. She decided to retire after winning 51 world and European medals and is now doing her fling with the world famous Cirque du Soleil.
British Olympic Association
The British Olympic Association, formed in 1905, are the national Olympic committee for Britain and Northern Ireland. They prepare the nation's finest athletes at the summer, winter and youth Olympics, and deliver world-leading services to enable success for athletes and their national governing bodies. Go to olympics.org.uk
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