Get behind our London 2012 Olympics hopefuls
PUBLISHED: 10:13 05 August 2011 | UPDATED: 16:56 05 August 2011
MICHAEL BAILEY guides you through the region’s promising and established talent aiming to compete and excel in London’s Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer…
• Richard Alexander
Honours: European gold, played in 2008 Beijing Olympics
Chances: A regular for England since 2005, but may be his last Olympics
A stalwart of the Great Britain team for six years, former Harleston Magpies star Alexander plays across a number of positions.
Ahead of the Beijing Games, Alexander’s top drawer performance secured qualification by beating India 2-0 in Chile.
The former Town Close pupil was on hand to open Norwich’s new hockey facility at the Hewett School this summer.
• Nic Asher
From: Carlton Colville
Honours: Two-time 470 class world champion (2006, 2008)
Chances: In with a serious medal chance, health-depending
The Lowestoft sailor and double world champion has been earmarked as a genuine medal contender on the Weymouth and Portlands waters.
However, Asher admitted his recent diagnosis with autoimmune thyroiditis – a strength-sapping condition that causes the immune system to react against the thyroid gland – put his selection “definitely in jeopardy”.
With treatment now in place, so is Asher’s recovery. Medals at the European Championships in Helsinki, Finland, and then the World Championships in Perth, Australia in December should book a shot at 2012.
• Tom Barber
From: Thorpe Hamlet
Honours: Silver medallist at the 2007 European Championships, former European junior champion
Chances: Competing at his home Games would be something special
Thorpe Hamlet Archery Club’s Barber has been prolific on the junior circuit, with a host of national and continental honours.
It meant the recurve youngster has been earmarked for a 2012 berth for some time, being named as a Team 2012 and getting the extra backing that comes along with the title.
He narrowly missed out on making the Beijing Games, but by that time was already earmarked as “a very exciting talent” by Team GB’s performance manager Barry Eley.
• Anne Bochmann
Honours: Triple gold medallist at the European Junior Championships 2008
Chances: Would be a great achievement to make the 2012 Olympic Games
Another who won title after title at junior level during her time with coach Dave Calleja at UEA City of Norwich Swimming Club.
Now based at the City of Leeds club, the Norwich swimmer has had a tricky season with injuries.
But having previously been backed for 2012 success by the likes of double Olympic champion Rebecca Addlington, Bochmann – who is an insulin-reliant diabetic – will be hoping to make her mark on her events, the 400m individual medley and 400m freestyle.
• Mel Clarke
Honours: Silver and bronze Beijing Paralympics 2008, 10 national able bodied records, six Paralympic records, world champion 2005
Chances: Will be aiming for gold in London
The Taverham Archers favourite has already enjoyed great success on the international scene and was the first disabled athlete in Europe to take her place in able-bodied competition.
Clarke contracted lyme disease from a tick bite in New York in 2003 – leaving her paralysed from the waist down, blind in one eye and told she would never shoot another arrow again.
Since then she has ruled the world and already enjoyed Paralympic success. London could top all that.
• Amy Conroy
Competes: Wheelchair basketball
Honours: Sixth at last year’s World Championships
Chances: Her meteoric rise may not have finished yet
Just two years ago Conroy was competing for Norwich Lowriders at Recreation Road.
Since then the former Notre Dame High School pupil has really impressed, making her mark with 16 points against the USA in the World Wheelchair Basketball Challenge last year.
She then went on to help Great Britain to sixth at last year’s World Championships.
• Jody Cundy
Competes: Track cycling
Honours: Six world and Paralympic swimming golds up to 2004, nine world and Paralympic cycling golds since
Chances: The track star has the potential to shine at his home Games
An MBE and Palaympic legend, Cundy was a class act in the pool before opting to switch to the velodrome – and the success continued seamlessly.
Cundy – currently based in Manchester – is the fastest Paralympian of all time, a world record breaker and someone whose Paralympic success borders on unrivalled.
And yet, 2012 could still be defining for the 1km time trial, team sprint and 4km pursuit star.
• Nick Dempsey
Honours: Bronze, Athens Olympics 2004; world champion 2009
Chances: Regularly in contention and could be spurred on thanks to home water
Dempsey is a three-time Olympian, finishing an agonising fourth in Beijing three years ago after his bronze in Athens.
He is already gearing up to get as much time on the Weymouth waters ahead of next year, when the Norwich windsurfer hopes to top his previous Olympic returns.
World champion in 2009, and current ninth in the world, it promises to be an exciting year for Dempsey.
• Piggy French
From: North Elmham
Honours: Silver at Badminton Horse Trials 2011 and the 2009 European Eventing Championships
Chances: In top form and a good shout for 2012 success
Now established as one of the top riders in the country, French led day one at this summer’s test event for the Olympics around Greenwich Park.
She took silver on her Great Britain debut at the European Championships two years ago and has been in great form this year.
August will see her compete with her horse, Jakata, at this year’s European Championships in Lumuhlen, Germany.
• Pippa Funnell
From: West Norfolk
Honours: Team eventing silvers from Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) Olympics, World Championship bronze in 2002 and five European golds
Chances: Possibly past her best but should still be at the sharp end in London
Raised in west Norfolk, Funnell is the elder stateswoman of British eventing with a host of top titles – including an MBE – aboard some famous horses, including Bits and Pieces, Sir Barnaby and Supreme Rock.
Funnell’s recent career has seen her turn attention to bringing on the next generation of talent, as well as continuing to successfully develop horses.
However, Funnell hopes she will take her chance to shine on the world’s biggest sporting stage – and on home soil.
• Mick Gault
Honours: 17 Commonwealth medals, making him one of the Games’ greatest competitors
Chances: 2012 will probably be his swansong – can he take a medal on his Olympic debut?
Gault is the most successful Commonwealth Games competitor England has ever produced, in a career that stretches back to 1990.
An OBE, the Norwich City and Holt and District Rifle and Pistol Club member had claimed, “That’s it, it is all over for Mick Gault the shooter” after last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
But Gault has since decided to hold off retirement to make sure he takes his place in London, which would be his first appearance at an Olympics.
• Eddie Graver
Honours: Junior bronze at the British Air Pistol Championships 2011
Chances: Outside chance of making 2012 but still young
Time is on Graver’s side, but that has not stopped him hoping to make a late bid for a place in London next summer.
The 17-year-old shooter is the son of current British champion Andy Graver – so has the pedigree to be a success.
He hopes to boost his London 2012 chances with a good showing at August’s Junior International in Bisley.
• Albert Hicks
Honours: World Cup gold medal, Rome 2011
Chances: Coming good with a late charge for contention
Another whose best chance at Olympic success may have to wait until Rio in 2016 – however, Hicks is giving his all for a late 2012 bid.
The Norwich Canoe Club member is hitting form after impressing in the junior ranks and could well take his recent senior Great Britain involvement all the way to the capital in 12 months’ time.
Hicks is due to compete at this month’s European Championships in France.
• Sophie McKinna
From: Great Yarmouth
Competes: Shot put
Honours: Silver at the World Youth Championships 2011, bronze at the UK Indoor Trials 2011
Chances: A genuine star in the making even at such a young age
McKinna just gets better and better. The Great Yarmouth and City of Norwich AC member became the first British woman in history to win a global championship medal in the shot earlier this month.
Coached by former GB shot star Geoff Capes has certainly done the trick in developing McKinna’s talents and the fact she is in contention for a 2012 berth is something special in itself.
She is the current British youth record holder and claimed a senior bronze at the UK Indoor Trials earlier this year.
• Danny Nobbs
Competes: Shot put
Honours: Fifth at the Beijing Paralympics 2008
Chances: Wants to win gold in London – and could make it happen
The likeable part-time athlete and employee at Aviva in Norwich has had an eye on the 2012 Paralympics for some time.
Despite tough times with injury since Beijing, next summer has kept Nobbs’ focus and he is currently third in the world in his category, just 20cm shy of the world record.
• Anthony Ogogo
Honours: Commonwealth silver in Delhi 2010
Chances: A man on a mission and hoping for some home glory
The middleweight star and former Big Brother contestant has held off his professional career for a shot at London 2012, where the former Kirkley High School pupil has a decent medal chance.
Triple A club fighter Ogogo fought on the undercard of Amir Khan and former world champion Julian Jackson before his Delhi Commonwealth Games bid last year, which ended with a point defeat to Eammon O’Kane in the final.
The opposition will be tough in London, but Ogogo is ready for the challenge.
• Barbara Parker
Honours: Fourth at the European Team Track Championships 3,000m steeplechase, fifth in the 3,000m at the World Indoor Championships, both 2010
Chances: Parker should be involved and may challenge if her form holds
Based in America for a few seasons now, City of Norwich athlete Parker had a great 2010 – something she will hope continues as 2012 approaches.
Impressive performances at the World Indoors and European Championships last year got Parker back on form after a difficult 2009.
Parker finished 12th in the 3,000m steeplechase in Beijing – a target for her to beat next summer in London.
• Tim Pendle
Honours: Fifth at the Berlin World Cup, sixth at Porto World Cup, second at Sanarbria (Spain) World Cup
Chances: In form and hoping he gets to impress in 2012
Pendle is a regular representing Great Britain through the age groups, taking seventh at the European Championships in Moscow as well as an impressive fifth at the World Championships in Spain.
The Norwich Canoe Club member now has Olympic gold medallist Tim Brabants on board to help him prepare and focus on the 1,000m K2 discipline.
It may be that 2012 comes too soon, but Pendle is giving it everything he can to be involved.
• Emma Pooley
Honours: Time trial silver at the Beijing Olympics, time trial world champion 2010
Chances: Talent, drive and real gold medal hope next summer
The former Norwich High School for Girls pupil has been in scintillating form since her superb performances in Beijing three years ago.
An unselfish ride propelled Nicole Cooke to road race gold, before Pooley took her own glory with time trial silver a few days later.
She was winner of the final Tour de France Féminin – equivalent to the Tour de France – in 2009 and became world time trial champion last year. Personable – and a serious contender for some London gold.
• Will Smith
Honours: Multiple world junior champion
Chances: Involvement would be a real coup and confirm his potential
Currently on Team GB’s long list for 2012, Smith is hoping to remain in contention for a Paralympic slot for as long as possible.
One thing Smith has is pace, the other is stamina – with Smith winning over anything from 200m to 1,500m.
It is only a matter of time before Smith will be winning senior medals. If he gets a chance to shine at the London Olympics, it would be a fantastic bonus.
• Lauren Spink
Competes: Table tennis
Honours: A host of national titles since the age of 12
Chances: Making impressive strides and could yet fulfil her Olympic dream
The Wensum Club player has returned to form on the table, and could yet make a bid for 2012 involvement.
Spink has been a class act since returning to the English grand prix scene, now sitting fourth in the rankings.
Continuing in the same vein as her current form could yet seen her rise grab the attention of the Team GB selectors.
• Victoria Williamson
Honours: Triple silver at the European Junior and Under-23 Championships 2010
Chances: Relying on others missing out but has the potential to impress
Williamson made the move from athletics to cycling just three years ago – but already has substantial support from British Cycling, who know how to produce medal-winners, and seems destined for big things.
As with some of our other potential talent the London Games may be too soon on the horizon, but Williamson has already shown what she can do on the European junior circuit and at national level.
She also travelled to the European Track Championships in Portugal to compete in the junior women’s sprint this month.