11 of East Anglia’s greatest Olympians
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
Which stars from our region have represented Team GB across the last 100 years?
This weekend marks the start of what should’ve been the 2020 Olympic Games, due to take place in Tokyo. However, with no games to watch this summer, what better time than now to remember and praise some of the best athletes, past and present, who hail from Suffolk and Norfolk.
Anthony Ogogo, Lowestoft
Lowestoft’s very own boxing titan Anthony Ogogo has been competing from a young age, having begun his sports career at age 12 – later going on to win a gold medal in the 2004 Junior Olympics in Texas.
Fast forward eight years later to the 2012 Summer Games, where a 23-year-old Ogogo made his Olympic debut on July 28 and took home a bronze medal in the middleweight division.
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At the age of 30, Anthony retired from boxing with a record of 11 wins after a series of injuries. Following on from this, he has embarked upon a wrestling career, making his hometown debut for the World Association of Wrestling. Outside of sports, readers may also recognise Anthony from various television stints including Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack, ITV’s Splash, Strictly Come Dancing, Celebrity Haunted Mansion and most recently, Bear Grylls’ The Island.
Karen Pickering, Ipswich
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With a career spanning 20 years, swimmer Karen Pickering took home 35 major championship medals and 38 national titles – despite breaking her back in 1996. The four-time World Champion also managed to break two world records and competed in four consecutive Olympic games, swimming in her first competition at the age of 20.
Originally from Brighton, the swimming sensation moved to Ipswich at 17 to train, and during her impressive tenure as a swimmer, took home four gold, seven silver and two bronze medals in a number of Commonwealth Games.
Retiring in 2005, Karen has since gone on to launch her own charity – The Karen Pickering SWIM Foundation – which helps those who are unable to afford lessons. She runs this alongside her own swimming schools. Between the years of 2004 and 2006, she also chaired the British Athletes Commission.
Amy Conroy, Norwich
Hailing from Norwich is Amy Conroy – a 27-year-old wheelchair basketball player who has competed for Great Britain in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Paralympic Games. During the latter, her team placed fourth, only just missing out on bagging a medal.
Diagnosed with bone cancer as a child, resulting in a leg amputation, Amy decided to take up wheelchair basketball which since has allowed her to compete around the world. She made her international debut at the 2010 BT Paralympic World Cup.
Having won a handful of medals throughout her career, some of Amy’s accolades include silver at the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship in Hamburg and gold at the 2015 Women’s U25 Women’s World Championships in Beijing.
Nick Dempsey, Mulbarton
Norfolk-born Nick Dempsey is a windsurfing legend, after having won three Olympic medals in the men’s sailboard event – a bronze in Athens 2004, and silver at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 - becoming the first man to do so. In addition to this, he is also a twice-World Champion, bagging gold in 2009 and 2013.
Other accolades include winning gold medals at both the 2015 Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portsmouth and 2013’s RS: X World Windsurfing Championships Buzios, alongside a handful of bronze and silver medals.
Outside of competition, Nick is also a prolific sports photographer, focusing on sailing and watersports. According to his website, had planned on shooting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Jody Cundy, Walpole St Andrew
Walpole St Andrew’s very own Paralympian legend Jody Cundy has excelled in not only one, but two sports - having represented Great Britain in both swimming and cycling. After having his foot amputated at age three, Jody went on to take up swimming at the age of 10 – and fast became one of the top members in his club’s team.
Jody went on to make his international debut at the 1994 Swimming World Championships in Malta, bagging himself gold in the 100m butterfly event. Fast forward two years and Jody competed in his first Paralympic Games in 1996, where he once again won gold in the 100m butterfly event. History repeated itself as four years later, he won gold in that same event, alongside the 4 x 100m freestyle relay and also a bronze in the 100m backstroke at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney. The last Summer Games that he competed in as swimmer was the 2004 Athens Paralympics, in which he took home the bronze for the 100m butterfly.
Two years later, Jody made the decision to switch from swimming to cycling in 2006, later going on to represent Great Britain at the 2008 Paralympic Games. It was that year that he won gold in the 1km Time Trial, and broke the world record with a time of 1 minute, 5.466 seconds. Having also won a bronze medal in the 4km pursuit event at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and two golds four years later in Rio, Jody is one of the few Paralympians who has become a champion in more than one sport.
Jessica-Jane Applegate, Gorleston
The youngest Olympian on this list, 23-year-old Paralympian swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate of Gorleston has managed to bag herself 15 medals while representing Great Britain in a variety of competitions – including a gold medal in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Jessica-Jane – who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder - began swimming at Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Swimming Club at a young age, before going on to compete in her first overseas competition in 2012, in which she won two bronze medals for the 50m and 100m freestyle.
That same year, Jessica-Jane won the gold in the 200m freestyle while also setting a time of 2:12.63. Four years later, she took part in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games and took home three medals - silver in the 200m freestyle, silver in the 200m medley and bronze the 100m backstroke.
Chris Walker-Hebborn, Bury St Edmunds
Raised in Suffolk, swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn has got 17 medals to his name – including eight golds and an Olympic silver.
Chris obtained his first medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the 4 x 100m medley, earning himself a bronze. Two years later, he competed in the men’s 100m and 200m backstroke events at the London Summer Olympics, placing 20th and 22nd.
2014 saw Chris go for gold, as he won three gold medals at the European Championships in Berlin and two at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. His most recent medal win saw him take home the silver in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, where he placed second in the men’s 4 x 100m medley relay alongside Adam Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott.
Kath Johnson, Grimston
Hockey star Kath Johnson, who hails from Grimston near King’s Lynn, managed to represented Great Britain in three consecutive Olympic Games – 1992, 1996 and 2000. The former Springwood High School student began playing hockey when she was 15.
Kath’s stint with the Great Britain women’s hockey team saw her and teammates take home the bronze medal at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona – a first for the team.
Earning the nickname ‘The Lion of Barcelona’, she has since gone on to play club hockey for Harleston Magpies and Leicester.
Katherine Dinah ‘Goldie’ Sayers, Newmarket
Katherine Dinah Sayers, often known as Goldie Sayers, is a British javelin thrower who comes from Newmarket, Suffolk. In 2007, Goldie set a new British javelin record after throwing it 65.05m - making her the first British woman to throw over 65m after the javelin redesign in 1999.
Readers may remember Goldie from when she competed in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing where she placed fourth. However, Russian athlete Mariya Abakumova, later tested positive for a banned substance – meaning Mariya was disqualified and Goldie was to be upgraded and awarded the bronze medal.
She received her medal last year on July 20 at the London Anniversary Games – 11 years after she originally competed.
Bill Tancred, Felixstowe
Felixstowe legend Bill Tancred has had a long and illustrious career in sports – he’s taken part in two Olympic Games, won medals in two Commonwealth Games and has spent time coaching athletes as well as teaching in a variety of schools and universities.
Qualifying in both the 1968 and 1972 Summer Games, Bill took home a bronze and silver medal in the 1970 and 1974 Commonwealth Games respectively, and was the British National discus champion seven times. He also held the British record for 25 years, with a personal best of 64.94m. In addition to this, Bill also competed in the shot put event.
Awarded an MBE in 1992 for his services to athletics, Bill also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Suffolk in 2008. After retirement from competition, Bill has spent time as a coach for UK Athletics, the International Association of Athletics Federations and as the national event coach for the British Amateur Athletics Board.
Stan Cox, Felixstowe
Born in Wood Green, athlete Stan Cox spent over three decades living in the town of Felixstowe. Prior to becoming an Olympian, Stan served in Iraq with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War before going on to compete in two Summer Olympic Games – 1948 and 1952.
Placing seventh in the men’s 10,000m race in 1948, Stan unfortunately was unable to complete his run in the 1952 Olympics due to falling ill with the flu.
After his Olympic stints, Stan retired from running in 1956, but kept himself busy as he spent time working with UK Athletics and also led health walks around Felixstowe. In addition to this, Stan was preparing to participate in London 2012’s opening ceremony before passing away that year on June 27 – exactly one month before the event took place. He was aged 93.