How the London 2012 Olympic Games changed the lives of Norfolk and Suffolk’s own Olympic and Paralympic heroes
- Credit: Archant © 2012
Competing at an Olympic and Parlympic Games on home soil is a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity and for those athletes who were given the chance to take part, it will always hold special memories. KATE SCOTTER caught up with some of our very own Olympians and Paralympians to see how London 2012 changed their lives.
Boxer from Lowestoft
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'It's completely changed my life – I obviously get noticed a lot more now, which is quite fun.
'I will be walking around Chapelfield and people notice me and want to have their photo taken with me. I love all that.
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'But my day-to-day life hasn't really changed that much. I still get up at 6.30am and train three times a day because that's what I know I've got to do to be the best.
'I want to get to the top as fast as I can. I could have stayed as one of the top amateurs in the world but I want to prove myself in the pro game.
'I get invited to a lot of things now and I feel bad when I can't go. But I don't want to be viewed as a celebrity – I'm a boxer first and foremost and want to prove myself in that.
'There will be plenty of time for the other stuff when my career finishes.'
Fencer from Norwich
Quarter-finalist in team foil event
'I decided to retire from competition after London 2012 so my life is completely different now. I don't miss having to train five hours a day, six days a week, and being away from home for many weeks in the year.
'However, I am still involved in coaching fencing and I spend my time working for the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, a charity which gives young people a chance to positively change their lives through sport.
'I've visited schools in both Norfolk and Suffolk since 2012 and I can see that young people are inspired by the Olympics.
'It's really important to make sure that the opportunities then exist for people to act and develop their talents. I'm also delighted to be involved with the Norwich City Community Sports Foundation which is working really hard to increase grass roots participation.
'The best experience I've had since London was being given the opportunity to walk out at half time during Norwich City's victory over Arsenal at Carrow Road back in October; it was brilliant – especially as my family, coach from Norwich and friends were in the stands watching.'
Swimmer from Gorleston
'London was so exciting and to be racing at home in front of so many people that supported me was just amazing. It's really strange because this time last year I was in heavy training in preparation for London and this year I am in heavy training for the World Championships in Canada.
'I went into London a complete outsider who no one had heard of and Canada is completely different.
'It's very scary because there's so much pressure and people expect me to do well. I will always try my best, but I can't promise any medals.
'I know that not only myself but many of the Olympians and Paralympians have inspired many people to take up sport.
'I receive really kind emails about how I have encouraged people to take up swimming or just to stick at something they are good at because anything is really possible. Not everyone is good at school, but everyone can be successful in something.
'My coach will tell you that since the London Games the 'learn to swim' section of the club has almost doubled in size and we get invited to do inspirational talks.
'A highlight since London was when I was really lucky to be named in the Queen's New Year's honours list. Going to be made an MBE was fantastic and my mum was so proud.'
Judoka from North Lopham, near Diss
'After the Olympics, I had a bit of an injury, but almost a year to the day after missing out on a medal at London 2012, I've just won my biggest medal to date after winning silver at the Grand Slam in Russia.
'It's been a great year. It's hard to come back from something like the Olympics and even if I make it to Rio, it won't be the same as the atmosphere won't be as intense.
'The biggest change for me since last summer is that I've moved. Our training performance centre at Dartford shut down so I've moved to Edinburgh to be with my girlfriend and at the next best performance centre available.
'I'm now building up for the world championships in Rio in late August and hopefully I will be in Rio in three years' time.'
Track cyclist from Walpole St Andrew
Bronze medal in the men's individual C4 pursuit
'London 2012 didn't go according to plan that's for sure [he was disqualified in the 1km time trial in the combined C4-C5 class] and although it was an amazing Games, I've tried to put it out of my memory.
'I'm looking forward now just because nothing went to plan. It's not how I envisaged a home Paralympics.
'But what was great about London 2012 was the increased profile of Paralympic sport generally. It's fantastic that Paralympians now get recognised; people can now list a handful of Paralympians.
'There has been increased TV coverage and it's inspired a lot of people in this country. It's shown the general public what disabled athletes can do and it's shown disabled people what they have the potential to do.'
Windsurfer from Mulbarton
'The build-up to an Olympics is the best time of your life. It is also the most stressful. It all feels so much longer than a year ago.
'You are completely and utterly engrossed in what you are doing to achieve your goal and every day you are working around the clock on things that you believe will make a massive impact to the final result.
'Right now I can have a day off knowing it won't have any effect on what happens in Rio in three years' time, but in the build-up to the Games you don't want to. It is completely one extreme to the other.
'After the Games it took me a good few months to get back on the board again. Obviously there was also the uncertainty around whether windsurfing was even going to feature at Rio 2016. When windsurfing was reinstated in November I then had to have a real think about whether I wanted to do another Olympic RS:X campaign. I think everyone's assumption was of course I would do it, but it wasn't that clear cut, it took a few days to think things through.
'If I win in Rio I will become the most successful men's Olympic windsurfer ever. That is a massive motivation to keep going.'