Olympics Rio 2016: Somerset's hopefuls
PUBLISHED: 14:56 28 July 2016 | UPDATED: 14:57 28 July 2016
Andy Greeves profiles the Somerset athletes who will be flying the flag for both Great Britain and Somerset at this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio and finds out why they love home sweet home
Trampolinist Laura Gallagher announced herself to the world of gymnastics back in 2007 by winning the Under-19 World Age Group Championship. Since then, the Bridgwater-based star has been part of the Great Britain senior team that scooped the gold medal at the European Championships in 2012 and the World Championships in 2013. She also won an individual bronze at the European Championships back in 2012.
Laura suffered the disappointment of narrowly missing out on a place at London 2012, after she finished as a runner-up during the final Olympic trial, but the 27-year-old is set to feature in the team event in Rio this summer.
For more information on British Gymnastics visit british-gymnastics.org
Born in Taunton in 1989 and raised in Burnham-on-Sea, former King Alfred School pupil Liam Phillips began cycling aged five. His father was a former BMX national coach and Liam followed in his dad’s footsteps by taking up that form of bicycle motocross.
Having won ten consecutive British titles as a youngster, Liam won his first European title in 1999 and went on to represent Team GB at the Olympics in 2008 and 2012. His greatest success to date came in 2013 when he won the UCI BMX World Championships, while he is also a back-to-back winner of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup.
British Cycling’s official website can be found at britishcycling.org.uk
Sport: Swimming (Paralympics)
Swimmer Aaron Moores was just 19 years of age when he won silver in the 100m backstroke (S14) at the London 2012 Paralympics.
Aaron, who has a learning disability, was 17 when he competed in his first national championships at the British Learning Disability Swimming Championship in Sheffield. His talent was clear to see as he recorded a time of 31.08 in the 50m breaststroke - a national record – and collected a total of four golds and a silver medal at the meet.
He has since gone on to break all sorts of records, including setting the new world record twice in one day in the men’s 100m SB14 breaststroke at the British Para-Swimming International Meet earlier this year.
Aaron is part of Aquae Sulis Performance Swimming Club in Bath where he trains alongside the likes of Stephanie Millward, Daniella Whiting and Jessie Foster.
British Swimming’s official website can be found at britishswimming.org.uk
Originally from the Isle of Man, Tim Kneale represented the island at both cricket and rugby before appearing in his first international shooting competition aged 16.
Now 32, Tim is the current men’s double trap world record holder and won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal for the Isle of Man back in 2010. For the past few years, Tim has been living in Muchelney with girlfriend Amy Garland, who works for Langport-based sports PR and event management company JB Promotions.
“I moved down (to Somerset) from Scotland to be nearer my girlfriend and also training facilities to help my shooting career,” comments Tim. “I’m really enjoying living in Somerset. Mucheleny is a quiet little village with lots of history and a great friendly atmosphere. We had the village BBQ a few weeks back! Langport is only a mile away and very similar with historic features dating back to Roman times but with small coffee houses and a range of interesting shops.
“I do like the variety in Somerset with a good mix of beaches, hills and woods to explore. It’s also great the amount of wildlife there is, especially here on the Somerset Levels. The people are very friendly and have a smile and a good local tale to tell a newcomer!”
Sport: Pentathlon (Olympics)
University of Bath graduate Kate French was part of the British Pentathlon team that won gold at the Modern Pentathlon European Championships in 2015, securing qualification for the Rio Olympics in the process.
Kate, who is originally from Meopham in Kent, has remained in Bath since obtaining her degree in Sports Performance last summer.
“This is my sixth year in Bath and it feels like I’ve been here even longer than that,” smiles Kate. “As athletes, we are spoilt by the facilities here and by how close we can live to the training centre.
“I only live 10 minutes away from the university, so I can fall out of bed and be here.”
More information on Kate and other Olympic and Paralympic athletes that train at the University of Bath can be found at teambath.com
Best of the Rest
Other athletes with Somerset connections looking to appear in Rio this summer include Yeovil-born, Scotland-raised rower Heather Stanning who won gold in the coxless pair with Helen Glover - who trains at Minerva Bath Rowing Club - at the Olympics four years ago. Litchfield-born, Bath-based Susie Gilbert should be included in Team GB’s women’s hockey team that is tipped by many for success in Brazil.
Yeovil wheelchair racer Jamie Edwards, part of the Team Somerset 500 Club (TS5C), has a good chance of appearing in the Paralympics despite being just 16 years of age. London-born, Paris-based athlete Lawrence Clarke, who has studied at university in both Bristol and Bath, will compete in the 110m hurdles subject to selection.
There are a host of sportsmen and women who train in Bath, hoping for a place at either the Olympics or Paralympics. They include Lynne Hutchinson (gymnastics), Piers Gilliver (Wheelchair Fencing) Samantha Murray, Joe Choong (both pentathlon), Ben Fletcher (Judo), Paul Blake, Andy Pozzi, Lucy Bryan and Eilidh Doyle (all athletics). Confirmed in Team GB’s swimming squads are Bath-trained Jazmin Carlin, Timothy Shuttleworth, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, Chris Walker-Hebborn and Andrew Wills.
Deborah Criddle MBE
Sport: Eventing (Paralympics)
With a total of four gold and two silver medals to her name, Taunton-born Deborah Criddle MBE is one of the most successful British Paralympians of all time. The 50-year-old, who competes in the grade III classification after having had her right arm amputated following a motorcycle accident back in 1985, is set make her fifth appearance at the Games this summer.
Deborah first competed at the Games in 2000, finishing eighth in the individual grade III event and fourth in the freestyle grade. She won a trio of gold medals in the individual, freestyle and team events at both the 2001 European Championships and the 2003 World Championships, which was then followed up with the same golden treble at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens.
Four years later, Deborah chose to compete at the Paralympics in Beijing as an individual rider – she came fifth in the individual event and fourth in the freestyle. She was part of the dressage squad once again at London 2012, winning the gold in the team championship along with Sophie Christiansen, Lee Pearson and Sophie Wells. Deborah also picked up two silver medals at the Games in the championship test and the freestyle.
On the back of her success at London 2012, Deborah was awarded with an MBE for her services to equestrian and a postbox was painted gold in her honour in the village of Trull. It was a fitting tribute for the event rider who is passionate about her home county.
She says: “I have been living in Taunton for the past 11 years and have lived in Somerset my whole life, growing up in a village at the foothills of the Quantocks.
“I love to visit the Quantock Hills as this is somewhere I spent a lot of time during my childhood. I have fond memories of cycling up Cothelstone Hill with friends for picnics, going on family walks up there with our dog and, years later, riding for hours through the glorious hills and combes.”
The British Equestrian Federation website can be found at bef.co.uk
The Legends of Minerva Bath Rowing Club
Formed in 1914 as Bath Ladies Boat Club (BLBC), Minerva Bath Rowing Club (MBRC) can be found in the Newbridge area of the city on the banks of the River Avon. At London 2012, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning’s gold medal in the Women’s Coxless Pairs threw the club into the spotlight as the venue where the pair learnt to row along with fellow Team GB member Vicky Thornley.
Glover still trains at Minerva and she isn’t the only Olympic legend based at the MBRC with club coaches Arnold Cooke and Klaus Riekemann having also appeared at the Games. Cooke, who is also the MBRC president, competed for Great Britain alongside Peter Webb in the men’s double sculls at the 1964 Olympics finishing seventh. Reikemann meanwhile won gold for the Unified Team of Germany at the 1960 Games in Rome.
Ahead of Rio 2016, Somerset Life asked Arnold and Klaus about their personal experiences of competing at an Olympic Games.
Arnold says: “My Olympics were the 1964 Games in Tokyo and the whole scene in those days was much more amateur. The only professional crews (called amateur) were the East Europeans, especially the Russians, who were all in the armed forces and the US eight which was privately funded and who went round Europe the whole of the 1964 season competing in various boats at major regattas. The rest of us worked full time and trained evenings and weekends. There was no squad system and each club produced its crews and competed in trials for the European Championships.
“The Olympics themselves were very memorable. Because it was so far, the whole team travelled by chartered aircraft to Tokyo, via the Middle East and Far East. We then had to stay for the length of the Games - five weeks including pre-Olympic practice - before flying back by chartered aircraft. As the rowing events were over in the first week, we had two weeks to sight see! The British Olympic Committee had organised groups of businessmen based in Japan to sponsor a team of their choice and organise the team’s social activities outside the Games. We therefore got to see Kyoto and Nara as well as Fuji, travel on the bullet train (first one to go over 200mph) and much dining out in Tokyo. We also saw something of the other Games events.”
Klaus adds: “Without any doubt crossing the finishing line first at the 1960 Games (coxed four) has shaped my life. I thought winning European Championships and German National Championships was the ultimate achievement, but then I was 19 years of age. Now I know that succeeding at the Olympics is for life, anything else is for 12 months.”
For more information on Minerva Bath Rowing Club visit minervabathrc.org.uk
Name: Lucy Shuker
Sport: Wheelchair Tennis (Paralympics)
Rio is set to be Lucy Shuker’s third Paralympics, having previously appeared at the Games in 2008 and 2012 in both the women’s wheelchair tennis singles and doubles events.
The 37-year-old from Taunton turned professional back in 2002 and her singles highlights include reaching the semi final of the French open in 2007, while she is a four-time quarter finalist at the Australian open. In doubles, she has reached the final at Wimbledon on three occasions (2009, 2010 and 2012) while she collected a bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympics, playing alongside Jordanne Whiley in London.
The Tennis Foundation is Britain’s leading tennis charity whose vision is a sport which is open and accessible to all communities. For more information visit tennisfoundation.org.uk.
Glastonbury’s Cameron Kurle has been included in Great Britain’s squad of 26 swimmers that will be competing in Rio, taking part in the 4x200m freestyle relay. He will be swimming in that event with James Guy, who is originally from Bury in Lancashire but trains with Kurle at Millfield School.
At 18-years-old Cameron was one of three swimmers - along with Ieuan Lloyd and Daniel Wallace - that were selected for Team GB at the discretion of the British Swimming Head Coach and National Performance Director in recognition of their future potential and ability in relay events.
Cameron is one of more than 100 athletes to have benefited from a grant from the Team Somerset 500 Club (TS5C) since 2007. One of the main aims of the organisation is to financially back young people aged from 14 to 24, living or training in Somerset with the drive and ambition to be a member of Team GB.
Cameron says: “Somerset and specifically Glastonbury has been my home all my life. I train at Millfield School in Street and I feel very fortunate to have such a great school right on my doorstep.
“When I’ve got the luxury of some downtime from training, I like go to the cinema in Yeovil with friends and go shopping in Bath.”
Sport: 7-a-side Football (Paralympics)
On June 13 Horton’s Giles Moore was named in Team GB’s 14-man-squad to compete in the football 7-a-side tournament at this summer’s Paralympic Games.
The call-up caps a remarkable couple of years for the 19-year-old, who was voted the best goalkeeper playing for England at the European Championships in 2014 and also represented the Three Lions at last summer’s Cerebral Palsy World Championships as the team reached the quarter finals.
Giles has been named in the Team GB squad alongside James Blackwell from Hawkesbury Upton, near Bath.
Sport: Shooting (Olympics)
Rio will be the third Olympics of shooter Ed Ling’s career, having previously been selected by Great Britain for the Games in Athens in 2004 and London in 2012. The 33-year-old from Nynehead near Wellington, who was raised on his family’s farm and attended Ruishton Primary School and Court Fields Secondary School, spoke to Somerset Life shortly after his place at this summer’s Games was confirmed.
“Heading to Rio, I will be focused on the job in hand using my experiences from Athens and London.”
For more information on Ed Ling, Tim Kneale and British Shooting visit britishshooting.org.uk
Bristol’s Medal Hopefuls
Bristol-born Claudia Fragapane made history in 2014 winning four gold medals in gymnastics for Team England at the Commonwealth Games, including the all-around title. The 18-year-old collected a silver medal at the European Championships last year with an Olympic medal looking a real possibility for the Bristol Hawks star this summer.
Fellow gymnast Ruby Harrold, who was born in Stevenage but lives in Bristol, also looks a good bet for success in Rio. She won gold, silver and bronze medals for Team England at the Commonwealth Games two years ago and was also part of the team success in the European Championships in 2014. More recently, she won bronze in the team event at the World Championships in 2015.
Shooter Karen Butler made her Paralympic debut in Barcelona in 1992, just 18 months after taking up the air rifle. Now, 24 years on, she has appeared at four Games to date, Her career highlight came in 2013, when she won bronze in the R2 event at the IPC Shooting World Cup. Bristol born and bred, Karen currently assists at her local girl guides in Stoke Gifford, as well as working as an IT trainer.
Former Bristol Grammar School pupil Emily Diamond will compete for Team GB in the 400m event at the Olympics alongside Welsh athlete Seren Bundy-Davies.
Fellow Bristolian Sally Conway, who won a bronze medal in Judo for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, will take part in her second Olympics.