The long, short and tall of Britain's Olympic hopefuls
As the world wakes up to the morning after the night before, spare a thought for the extraordinary athletes whose focus could hardly be sharper at the start of the biggest year of their sporting careers
Sunday 01 January 2012
London's Olympic year is finally upon us. It's 208 days until the 2012 Games get under way in east London and, for two weeks, the best of Britain's archers, oarsmen, butchers, bakers and helicopterrepairers will get their chance to shine in the greatest sporting show on Earth. Here is The Independent on Sunday guide to the Britons in contention for home Olympic duty.
Discus thrower Lawrence Okoye weighs in at a mighty 20st 6lb. The Croydon Harrier set a British record of 67.63m last summer and is slightly heavier than when he crashed over the try-line at Twickenham to score in the English schools' cup final in 2010. In his previous incarnation as a rugby union winger, Okoye was nicknamed "The schoolboy Lomu." He was a member of the London Irish academy before turning his attentions to trying to make the 2012 Olympic grade as a track and field athlete – and registering the longest throw in history by a teenaged discus thrower.
Most wins against Geena Davis
An Oscar-winner for her performance in The Accidental Tourist in 1998, Geena Davis reached the semi-finals of the US Olympic archery trials in 1999. The Hollywood star failed to gain selection but earned a wildcard entry to the Golden Arrow tournament in Sydney. She was beaten 160-120 in the first round by five-time Olympian Alison Williamson, who said: "She certainly wasn't bad. To go from complete beginner to going for Olympic selection was remarkable."
Most goals against Real Madrid
Before being bitten by the track and field bug and becoming World Championship 400m hurdles champion in Daegu last summer, Dai Greene played left wing for Swansea City's youth team. He played an Under-17s tournament against Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Liverpool in Spain. "Against Real, there was a penalty shoot-out and I slotted one home," Greene says. "So at least I can say I've scored against Real Madrid."
Most popular on Twitter
Tom Daley, the 17-year-old diver from Plymouth, is big in China – boasting some 343,000 followers on the country's social networking site Tencent. However, when it comes to Twitter, which is subject to a state ban in China, Daley is firmly in the slipstream of Mark Cavendish. The Manxman, who won the Tour de France green jersey, the world road race cycling title and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2011, boasts 208,301 followers; Daley has 162,992.
Closest resident to Olympic Park
A close call to make in every respect. Christine Ohuruogu's family home is in Stratford. "The London Games are being held in the streets where I grew up and where I still live now," the Olympic 400m champion says. Ohuruogu narrowly gets the verdict from Perri Shakes-Drayton, the European Championship 400m hurdles bronze medallist, who also lives on the East End Olympic doorstep. "I live with my mum in Bow," she says. "You can see the Olympic Stadium from the end of our road."
Shortest (and lightest)
At 4ft 9in, Hannah Powell is smaller than a Royal Mail pillar box. The 18-year-old from Rubery in the West Midlands is also a featherweight, tipping the scales at a mere 7st. As the British weightlifting champion in the women's 48kg division, however, she has the power to hoist almost twice her body weight. She can clean and jerk 12st 8lb. "Once I was on a night out and a man asked me what I did for a living, so I told him I was part of the British weightlifting team," Powell recalls. "He didn't believe me so I asked him to get on my shoulders and I lifted him up. It certainly broke the ice."
According to the most recentSunday Times Rich List, only one British sporting figure has accumulated more wealth than David Beckham. It is unlikely that Stuart Pearce would turn to 75-year-old Dave Whelan as one of his over-age players in the football squad (despite the Wigan chairman's pedigree as an FA Cup finalist) so the 36-year-old Beckham stands to become the most moneyed member of Team GB in what used to be the global showpiece of amateur sport. Worth an estimated £135m, Beckham remains one of the sporting world's mega-earners.
At 6ft 11in, Ryan Richards is the biggest thing to come out of Sittingbourne since... well, since anything anyone in the Kentish town can remember. The 20-year-old power forward started his basketball career with the Kent Crusaders and played for Real Madrid and Gran Canaria. In 2010 he was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs and, while his time with the NBA club has been hampered by a shoulder injury, last year he graduated to the GB senior basketball squad. "Playing in the Olympics is one of my main career goals," he says.
Most countries represented
Triple jumper Yamile Aldama is on course for a hat-trick of Olympic appearances for different countries. Born in Havana, she finished fourth in Sydney in 2000 for her native Cuba. In 2001 she married a Scotsman, moved to London and joined Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers. Refused British citizenship ahead of the 2004 Olympics, she accepted an offer of a Sudanese passport instead. Aldama finished fifth for Sudan at the Athens Games but has continued to live and train in London. Last August, she switched nationality for a second time and made her GB debut at the World Championships in Daegu. She finished fifth, suggesting the 39-year-old is likely to be a serious challenger in London.
Mary King is the undisputed queen of British three-day eventing. At 50, the equestrienne is already a five-time Olympic veteran and is aiming for a record-equalling sixth appearance. Only two British Olympians have competed in six Games: fencer Bill Hoskyns (1950-1970) and javelin thrower Tessa Sanderson (1976-96). Both King and archer Alison Williamson could emulate the pair in 2012; Williamson turned 40 on November, while King will be 51 in June, a month before the London Games begin. She made her Olympic debut in Barcelona in 1992 and has won two team medals: silver in Athens in 2004, and bronze in Beijing in 2008.
Most obscure hobby
Fencer Richard Kruse was born and raised in London but can knock out a mean tune on the bagpipes. "I am a quarter Scottish," he says. "I learned to play with the 10th Finchley Scottish Scout Group."
Furthest resident from Olympic Park
Ellen Gandy lives 10,059 miles from the Olympic Aquatics Centre where she is expected to be a British medal contender. The 20-year-old, who won a 200m butterfly bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, lives and trains in Melbourne in Australia. Born inBromley, Gandy competed for Beckenham but her family relocated Down Under four years ago. Her father Simon is executivegeneral manager of Melbourne Airport.
Lawrence Clarke, 110m hurdles bronze medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, is the heir to a baronetcy. His father is Sir Toby Clarke and he is related to the Roosevelt family. But Zara Tindall – or Zara Phillips, as she continues to be known professionally – is 13th in line to the British throne. The Queen's eldest granddaughter withdrew from the British three-day eventing team in 2008 after her horse Toytown was injured. But she's back in contention this year.
Best (otherwise) connected
Patrick Drayton, the father of 400m hurdler Perri Shakes-Drayton was then world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis's fitness trainer. Taekwon-do hopeful Damon Samsun's father Lee was a bodyguard for Diana, Princess of Wales. Imogen Bankier, a mixed doubles silver medallist at Wembley in 2011, has Celtic FC chairman Ian for a father.
Becky Martin was born in 1996, the year Alison Williamson made her second Olympic appearance in Atlanta. The Staffordshire schoolgirl only turns 16 a week today but has emerged as a contender alongside Williamson on the archery squad. Martin is sixth in the British rankings with three women's places to be claimed. "I know I have work to do," she says, "but it would be amazing to take part in a home Olympics."
Katherine Grainger, the Scottish oarswoman who is aiming for a fourth Olympic rowing medal in 2012 (and a first gold), has a law degree from Edinburgh University, a Masters in medical law from Glasgow University and is studying for a PhD in homicide at University College, London. Canoeist Tim Brabants, winner of the 1,000m kayak event at the Beijing Olympics, has worked as a doctor at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham and Jersey General Hospital but has taken time out from his medical career to defend his Olympic crown in 2012.
Most obscure profession
Archer Larry Godfrey repairs engines for Apache helicopters used by British forces in Afghanistan. An honourable mention, too, for rower Mark Hunter, who is a licensed Thames Waterman. The East Ender qualified to skipper passenger and freight boats. His teammate Chris Bartley is a plant photographer. He has an MSc in Biological Photography and Imaging from the University of Nottingham.
Shanaze Reade was a 100m runner and shot putter before she made her first visit to theTipkin Park BMX track in Crewe. She fell instantly in love with the sport in which she was to become a world champion. She was only 10 and used her pocket money to pay for her first bike. It cost a princely £1.
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