Andy Turner and Jonathan Edwards inspire future Olympians
Jonathan Edwards, one of Britain’s most decorated athletes, and Andy Turner, one of the most successful British athletes of 2010, were on hand at the London 2012 site this week to inspire the future crop of British Olympians.
Nine Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls – four of whom are track and field athletes – were present in London to gain an insight from Edwards and Turner. They included 800m runner Darren St Clair, high jumper Vikki Hubbard, middle distance runner Charlotte Best, and hammer thrower Myra Perkins.
The rising stars are just a small selection of 300 talented young sportspeople who are being backed by Lloyds TSB as part of their Local Heroes programme, which in partnership with SportsAid provides funding to help more British talent reach the top of their sport.
The £1000 grants came in handy for the track and field athletes, in particular the ones who had recently been left off the recent lottery funding lists – a situation that Turner could empathise with.
“When I got dropped from funding, it was my main source of income so it was really hard financially,” said Turner, who lost out on funding after a disappointing 2008 campaign before rebounding and winning Commonwealth and European 100m hurdles gold. “I had to go out and race everywhere to try to make a living.
“When I got dropped from funding, it was my main source of income so it was really hard financially.”
“Now I’ve been put back on funding it has meant that I can concentrate on quality rather than quantity and I can prepare myself better – not only in training but in every aspect of my life,” he added. “Athletics isn’t just something you do, it’s a lifestyle and you’ve got to make a lot of sacrifices. Being on funding, every bit helps, and I don’t think people realise just how much funding does pay in helping out as athletes. We want to do our best and it gives us the boost that we need.”
Triple jump world record-holder Edwards echoed Turner. “Because the bar is set so high for elite funding, it’s tough for the athletes who are just below that,” he said. “Sport requires a huge amount of commitment, both in terms of time and money. When you’ve achieved as much as you have done yet you haven’t received the amount of support you feel you should get, it can be very disheartening. To have Lloyds TSB come in with this kind of support can give them that kind of motivation on those cold dark nights at training to make it all seem more worthwhile. It’s also the sense that someone believes in you.”
St Clair, who this year ran a PB of 1:45.74 to rank second in the country, says the backing from Lloyds TSB will help in linking up with his USA-based coach. “I don’t get funding from elsewhere so I have to work part time and train,” he said. “But this will allow me to go across to America and focus solely on athletics. Being able to train like that means you can get the most out of your training.”
Hubbard, meanwhile, is looking ahead to successful seasons in 2011 and 2012 after coming close to a medal in Delhi. “Making the Commonwealth Games was good for me as I hadn’t had the best summer,” she said. “I finished fourth, one place away from the medals, and I was very disappointed at the time, but on reflection it was a great stepping stone to my senior career.”
For Perkins, the Scottish junior record-holder in the hammer and GB representative at the 2010 World Junior Championships, the trip to London made her Olympic dreams all the more real. “I hadn’t realised quite how much had been done here already. It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s such a big, big stage for us, and it makes it much more real to come here and see that it’s actually happening – I’m not just reading about it in Athletics Weekly or hearing about it in the news.
“I was able to train in Germany for three months because of the grant and that was invaluable,” she added. “It’s not just the financial help, it’s also the recognition that you’re working hard, that you’re trying to get somewhere.”