Rio 2016 Olympic Games: Hertfordshire’s stars
PUBLISHED: 16:44 01 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:10 08 August 2016
Cheering on Team GB at the Olympics and Paralympics is always a thrill but you can take it a step closer to home with our guide to the Herts athletes carrying the hopes of the nation over the coming weeks. Damion Roberts outlines the ones to watch
Rio Olympics (August 5-21)
Laura Trott - cycling
A track and road cyclist, Laura Trott is already a double Olympic champion having won gold in both the team pursuit and omnium at London 2012 at the age of just 20. The former member of Welwyn Wheelers cycling club grew up in Cheshunt and following her success in 2012 her local sports centre was renamed the Laura Trott Leisure Centre in her honour. She was a 10-time world champion by the age of just 23 and also has both a Commonwealth gold medal and, for her services to the sport, an OBE to her name. This year the 5ft 4in star, who is engaged to fellow GB cyclist Jason Kenny, has continued to lead the pack. She won Cycling World Cup gold in the omnium in Hong Kong and was crowned a double world champion on the track on her return to London. Looking ahead to Rio, the pocket rocket, who took to competitive cycling at the age of eight to ride alongside her mum, Glenda, who wanted to lose weight, is expected to race for two gold medals in the women’s team pursuit and the omnium.
Tim Shuttleworth - swimming
A stunning last 12 months has propelled swimmer Tim Shuttleworth to the very top of British swimming. At the 2016 British Olympic Trials, he came from the fringes to smash his personal best 1,500m freestyle time of 15:15.74 by 20 seconds to win, and as such is one of 26 swimmers included in the GB squad for Brazil. The Hatfield Swimming Club member, who turned 19 in April, is a student at Loughborough University and has been back to Hatfield this summer to offer coaching tips to youngsters. He has a big future in swimming ahead of him, starting this summer.
Ellie Watton & Hannah McLeod – hockey
Ellie Watton, a qualified teacher, made her England hockey debut against South Africa in 2013 and has been a regular ever since. Now a full-time professional, the 27-year-old plays her club hockey at St Albans, where her England team-mate Hannah Macleod, who has a PhD in Exercise Physiology, is also a member. Watton has now racked up 23 GB caps, while McLeod has made more than 50. With medal success at world, European and Commonwealth level, both are expected to be part of the GB squad in Rio.
Sarah McKenna - rugby union
All but two of the GB sevens squad for Rio are from England, including fly half Sarah McKenna.The 27-year-old plays her club rugby for Saracens in Barnet and the Welwyn-born ace includes Old Albanian, in St Albans, among her former clubs.A former pupil of Roundwood Park School and Grove Junior School, both in Harpenden, she began playing rugby at the town’s club aged six, where her dad coached the minis. She made her England debut in 2011. Her try-scoring and kicking abilities will be crucial in Rio.
Jodie Williams - athletics
The Welwyn GC sprinter specialises in the 200m after making the switch from 100m. She also competes in the 400m, and last year reportedly turned down relay funding to maintain her focus on the individual sprint events rather than take part in the 4x100m at the Games. The 22-year-old is a European and Commonwealth silver medallist but missed out on London 2012 due to injury. She has been in training in Arizona ahead of this year’s Olympics.
Olivia Federici - synchronised swimming
St Albans’ Olivia Federici, alongside synchronised swimming partner Katie Clark, clinched her place at Rio 2016 back in March after winning the ‘duet free’ discipline at the final qualification ahead of the games. Just three years ago the pair had retired from the sport following the World Championship, leading to UK Sport axing funding for the GB synchronised swimming team. Now, after coming out of retirement in 2015, the pair are aiming for success this summer. Federici, 26, and Clark, 22, were sixth in the team event at London 2012.
Ben Saxton - sailing
Ashwell’s Ben Saxton, who turned 26 in June, will partner Nicola Groves in the Nacra-17 sailing class for Great Britain this summer. The pair came together as a team only last year but won World Cup silver in Miami before claiming European gold in September. They have had plenty of success since, including winning gold in June this year at the Sailing World Cup in Weymouth, where they finished three points clear of German duo Paul Kohlhoff and Carolina Werner.
Max Whitlock - gymnastics
Hemel Hempstead-born gymnast Max Whitlock is one of Great Britain’s best medal hopes at the games. The 23-year-old current World Champion who won two bronze at the London Olympics, will take part in the individual and team competitions. With successful European and Commonwealth experience too, he is part of an artistic gymnastics team that is feared by leading countries, China, Japan and the US.
Ruby Harrold - gymnastics
Ruby Harrold has been a consistent medal winner at national and international level for the past six years. The 20-year-old has twice helped the Great Britain team to European Championship team silver. The second of those came this year, just months after she picked up bronze medals in both the uneven bars and beam at the British Championship. Last year, Harrold, who is from Stevenage, was part of the GB team that made headlines after winning their first ever medal, a bronze, at the Gymnastics World Championship, a sparkling result which also booked the team’s place at Rio this year.
Rio Paralympics (September 7-18)
Chris Ryan – wheelchair rugby
There can be fewer prouder moments for a sportsman than to captain your country at an Olympics. That is what Chris Ryan will be doing as he leads out Great Britain’s wheelchair rugby team at the Paralympics in Rio in September. The Panshanger athlete led GB to qualification by winning the European Championship last autumn, and the 12-strong team will be looking to add the Olympic crown to their European title this year. Ryan was introduced to the sport at the spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville, where he was in rehabilitation following a road traffic accident in November 2008. He was on the standby list for London 2012 and has been captain of his country since 2015.
Speaking ahead of the games, the 25-year-old said, ‘I cannot put into words how proud I am to lead this incredible team of athletes. ‘We have come together and played together for several years now and we have a great squad ethos. We have had an incredibly tough few years of training and preparing for major competitions, but there is no bigger competition than the Paralympics.’ Great Britain will feature in Group B in Rio alongside Iran, the USA, Germany, Algeria and host Brazil who, in a unique way of drawing the groups, were able to choose which group they wished to participate in. Ryan and his team-mates will be hoping for a repeat of the Rio test event, which saw them bring home gold earlier this year.
John Walker – archery
Welwyn GC ace John Walker is part of the GB Paralympics archery team heading to Rio. Nicknamed Whiskey, the 41-year-old started shooting arrows for fun in 2013 before taking up the sport competitively a year later. At the time of writing, he is ranked number two in the world and holds two European records and four world records. ‘I watched the London 2012 Paralympics and saw Matt Stutzman shooting with no arms, so I thought if he can shoot with no arms I must be able to shoot with one and that’s where it started for me,’ he told the Archery GB website.
Mitchell Dutton – javelin
Twenty-year-old Mitchell Dutton was, at the time of writing, waiting to hear if he had achieved his dream of being selected to represent his country at the Olympics. The athlete, who is from Watford and is studying for a sports degree at the University of Hertfordshire, competes in the ambulant javelin and was in European action for his country in June. Dutton, who trains at St Albans Athletics Club, tried out a variety of sports when he was younger including cricket and kickboxing, before eventually settling for javelin. It seems he made the right choice, as he set a junior world record of 39.73m last year in Stoke Mandeville in what was his first appearance in a Great Britain shirt. He is now aiming for bigger things.
Oliver James – rowing
Oliver James goes to Rio on the back of a successful stint as the cox of Great Britain’s para-rowing squad. The mixed-fours athlete, who is 25 and from Stevenage, has coxed his country to three successive World Championship titles and will be looking to help them to add an Olympic crown to their impressive list of achievements. James started coxing in 2009 and made his GB rowing team debut in 2013. He helped his mixed-fours team of Grace Clough, Dan Brown, Pamela Relph and James Fox to gold at last year’s World Championships in Aiguebelette, France, and the team has been unbeaten in race action since 2011.
Jess Stretton – archery
At just 16, Jess Stretton hopes to add an Olympic title to her burgeoning medal collection. The archery star, who first took up the sport through WheelPower’s Junior Sports programme at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, recently won gold at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport Federation World Junior Games. The Hemel Hempstead rising star is on GB Archery’s performance pathway to the Paralympics, and was still waiting to hear at the time of going to press if she had made it to Rio. This year she broke the W1 Open Compound Event world record at a shoot in Dubai, all while she was still studying for her GCSEs this summer. Rio or not, she is tipped for a big career in the sport
Jody Cundy - cycling
Jody Cundy will compete at his sixth Paralympics after being named in the Great Britain squad for Rio. The cyclist is a former University of Hertfordshire student who competed at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and then Athens 2004 as a swimmer before switching to the track for cycling at both Beijing 2008 and again for London 2012. The 37-year-old, also a former member of Hatfield Swimming Club, won three gold medals in the pool in his first three Paralympics before claiming two medals at Beijing and a bronze in the 4km pursuit (C4) four years later at London.
Grace Harvey - swimming
Grace Harvey is a 10-time British record holder for the S7 and SM7 classifications in swimming. Among the 17-year-old Paralympics hopeful’s records are those for the long-course 50m backstroke, the 200m backstroke and the 200m individual medley. The Hoddesdon Swimming Club member, who is on the Hertfordshire Talented Athlete programme and goes to college in Ware, last year won gold in the 50m fly at the CPISRA World Games and earlier this year was named the Cerebral Palsy Sport National Swimming Championship Swimmer of the Year after picking up five gold medals at the national championship.