2012 Olympics: Who said there are no shortcuts in sport?
It traditionally takes the best part of a lifetime to reach the top. But, 10-weeks from the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and with Team GB slowly announcing it’s line-up for the summer, it appears there’s a new breed of Olympians in town.
A handful of British athletes were lined up for London 2012 not in recent weeks, not even at the turn of the last Olympiad, but back in their schooldays. They are among thousands of teenagers profiled for their raw sporting talent before being intensively nurtured into world-class racing machines. Set on the fast-track, they were always destined for the Games. Whether they would eventually cut it, no one really knew.
Britain’s Talent Identification programs were controversial when they arrived on the scene just two Olympiads ago. Coaches and sports scientists set out to source the nations strongest, fittest and most powerful youngsters. If this all sounds like something from the Cold War, that’s because it is – the East German’s pioneered the precise science of talent identification back in the 1960s.
Critics will point to the shattered dreams, to all the cash poured in and to the crudeness of profiling criteria. They will tell you of athletes with their sights set on the Olympics only to be cut from the program when they fail to meet benchmarks a few months down the line. But there is simply no disputing the success stories.
Towering at 6ft 8in, 24-year-old rower Mohamed Sbihi is now in with a shot of an Olympic medal, having been spotted by talent scouts at school nine years ago. “I would never have rowed if they hadn’t knocked on my school’s door and asked to test all the kids,” he told the Guardian. What’s more, Sbihi is not alone.
Canoeist Rachel Cawthorn, 23, who already has a European Championship to her name, is set to confirm her place at the Olympics this weekend in Poland. Also spotted through a Talent Identification program at the age of 15, she has come to dominate a field of competitors who have been canoeing since primary school.
I was a sceptic myself. As an established GB junior canoeist, I was part of a crowd that thought it outrageous for a footballer or a cricketer to try their hand at our sport, trying to beat us at our own game. At the time, it seemed like a waste of funds and, worse, a kick in the teeth.
Brought into sports that they had not discovered themselves, the talented aspirants did not compete merely ‘for the love it’. Not in the beginning at least. How could they?
But still, they committed themselves to making it as the best athletes in the world and their governing bodies supported, and even fuelled, that pipedream.
But, here we are, with London 2012 just around the corner. Britain’s Talent Identification quest has been a success. The latecomers have risen fast and, in less than ten years of training in their given sports, they have a very real chance of achieving something that took Chris Hoy and Kelly Holmes more than two decades.Tagged in: 2012 games, London Olympics, olympics, Stratford
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