The background noises and buzz of construction has become a familiar soundtrack of Stratford’s recent past. Here, the shrines of London’s Olympic Park are now surrounded by ephemeral skyscrapers and a cast of rotating cranes.
Today, the first bricks of another ambitious project have been laid.
Under Orbit – where punters line up to descend the world’s tallest slide – local youths start a race to the top. Hope? One or two could well reach the highest peak in the sport.
“From Home 2 The Games” launched just 50 days before the start of the Tokyo Olympics
Former GB team Olympic rower Katherine Grainger (left) was there to inspire the athletes
Fifty days before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, medalists past, present – and future? – gathered to fire the starting cannon on ‘From Home 2 The Games’.
For the first time, UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) are working with Team GB, ParalympicsGB and 19 different sports to find another generation of heroes.
They believe that tomorrow’s icons like archery, boccia, canoe and the skeleton linger among the ashes of the coronavirus.
“Many of us have missed out on making sport part of our lives,” said London 2012 rowing gold medalist Dame Katherine Grainger.
UK Sport and EIS are now working together to find the next generation of heroes
“Launching this now seems like a great time to tell people who might be inspired by Tokyo: this could be an opportunity for you. This might be an option you never thought of. But in fact, you might have potential that you didn’t know.
Chris Luyeye hopes to be among them. He knows life in the shadows of the London stadium; the glory days of Mo Farah and Usain Bolt are etched in the memory of the 21-year-old.
Luyeye has always played football and basketball. Now he wants to try his hand at the middle distance race.
“I have (still) a few years in me,” he laughs. “Anything is possible… if you dedicate yourself and devote the time and work to it, age shouldn’t really be a factor.”
Since 2007, there have been 16 national talent searches, involving more than 22 sports and 11,000 young people. They include Helen Glover (rowing), Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas (skeleton), Lutalo Muhammad (taekwondo) and Joanna Butterfield (disc) – all Olympic or Paralympic medalists, all recruited through programs like this.
Programs like “From Home 2 The Games” have helped recruit some of Team GB’s biggest stars.
“(They) probably would never have entered their sport if they hadn’t gone through talent ID,” says Grainger.
Sprinting and cycling sensation Kadeena Cox caught the attention of coaches at a recruiting session in 2014. She won Paralympic gold medals in both sports two years later. Today, she is one of seven athlete ambassadors who hope to inspire the next generation.
Swimming golden boy Adam Peaty and middle distance star Laura Muir are among the others, while Grainger has taken over as chairman of UK Sport.
“I would like to think of some of the people that we will bring together from that, we will see them at the LA 2028 Games and the next games after that,” Grainger said.
Ambitious? Perhaps. But its own path to the podium proves why it pays to dream big.
Grainger (second from right) is hoping those attending ‘From Home 2 The Games’ can be at LA 2028
“I grew up in Glasgow and my neighbors next door rowed,” says Grainger. “They used to have boats parked in front of our house. It was a big part of my childhood and yet I only went by boat once. I did all the normal things in school – run, jump and hit things.
Then at Freshers’ Fair, someone suggested she get back on the water. “Even when I started – I liked the environment, I liked the people, the challenge… probably almost before I liked the sport itself,” she says. Grainger’s original goal? “I just want to be a really good newbie. “
But somewhere a trainer spotted something. They pushed her to the British trials.
“Even then, I thought: there’s just no way I’m ever at this level. I guess that’s why, personally, campaigns like this are so important, ”Grainger adds.
“I would never have thought of doing it myself, I would never have even dared to dream that the Olympics were a possibility. This person changed my life … I don’t want us all to hope that the right athletes will meet the right coach or teacher.
Medalist Grainger (far right) said she never expected to be at the level she is at
Instead, they want to throw the net as wide as possible, to minimize those who slip through. Thus, until September 6, young athletes from all over the country are invited to show their strengths.
‘What have you got to lose?’ Peaty said after the launch. ‘That’s exactly what I told myself. I immediately became addicted to swimming. It was a hook – he grabbed me and pulled me down. ‘
Anyone between the ages of 11 and 23 with Olympic dreams must complete a 20m sprint, a width jump (standing) and an “open skill challenge”. Prospective Paralympians (ages 15-34) are expected to perform a 20m push or sprint, pickup and throw, as well as their own open skill.
“(It) can be varied, from maintenance with a soccer ball to push-ups to jumping rope,” says Grainger. “What else are you doing?” It is actually interesting.
Why? “Whether it’s rock climbing, skateboarding, surfing or some board sports, they have very different skills,” says Grainger. “Very specific skills that you may not recognize in your traditional training style, in school sport or in club competition.
Young athletes from all over the country are invited to show their strengths in various sports
“You should never feel that it is too late. There is a lot of latent potential waiting to be found, waiting to be maximized. It’s the excitement.
A team of sports science experts and coaches is tasked with harnessing this talent.
“They are very good at just seeing the potential,” says Grainger. Physical, technical … even mental. “It’s harder to assess or judge, but it shows something quite special about this individual.
“We want this to be as broad and inclusive as possible, from as wide a spectrum of society as possible. There is sometimes a perception, especially with certain sports, that it is for certain types of people and not for me.
It also causes problems on the other side of the track. “(Our) feeling is this: although we’ve been doing this for a long time, we still lack potential, there are parts of communities that we just haven’t reached,” Grainger said.
“We all want the best team we can have in the next few games. To do this, you want to feel like you are capturing as much talent as possible. That’s a benefit for us – a better performing team, a more diverse and inclusive team, because the next generation looks to that team and thinks: well, it’s for me now. “
Not everyone will be on the Olympic team, but the goal is to get more people to try
The reality is that only a privileged few will ever win a chance at gold. So what becomes of the rest?
“Not everyone will reach this Olympic or Paralympic podium and it is just as important that more people try it. And play sports in their life, ”says Grainger.
“This pursuit of excellence in top performance sport gives you so much more in your life – it doesn’t just bring medals… it’s the best thing I have ever done in my life, and the person I have I have become, the challenges I had to overcome, the goal he gives you. All of these things are incredibly rewarding.
She adds: “Yes, the medalists are an obvious success, but actually the number of people who have added sport to their life in a really positive way. It’s just as successful, that’s also what we are trying to do. .
Grainger (left) says the door is open for any athlete looking to pursue these kinds of programs
This initiative hopes to overcome obstacles for each young participant, signaling sporting opportunities in their region.
“(It) can help build a friendship,” Luyeye says. “It keeps your space free, it keeps you motivated… it distracts you but in a positive way.”
Building on the foundation laid here in 2012 is especially important given the promises made this Golden Summer.
“I don’t think we should ever feel, ‘We’ve made a legacy now,” Grainger says. “As an athlete you have this mentality of constantly trying to be better than yesterday, to improve yourself. constantly, constantly looking for better ways to do it.
“I feel the same with inheritance or potential. We should never feel, “We’re right, it’s done now.” It’s always: “Where next? How better? “There will always be future Olympians and Paralympians. Each time we should improve ourselves to capture more people to be part of it. So for Luyeye and the other youngsters who know what is around that first corner .
“The door is open,” says Grainger. “Let’s see who goes by. “