CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Meet some of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic athletes flying the flag for Surrey

PUBLISHED: 22:01 11 August 2016 | UPDATED: 22:01 11 August 2016

Andrew Willis (Photo Alex Broadway /

Andrew Willis (Photo Alex Broadway /

Simon Wilkinson -

As excitement builds for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio, Andy Greeves meets some of the athletes who will be flying the flag for Surrey

Georgina Hermitage (Photo Chris Lee - British Athletics via Getty Images)Georgina Hermitage (Photo Chris Lee - British Athletics via Getty Images)

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2016


Name: Sophie Bray

Sport: Hockey (Olympics)

Claygate’s Sophie Bray is a member of Great Britain’s 16-player women’s hockey squad looking to achieve medal success in Rio this summer. At the time of writing, the 26-year-old had won 91 international caps, 21 of them representing Great Britain, and she was part of England’s squad that won silver at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and gold at the European Championships last year.

SL: Congratulations on your call-up for Team GB for this summer’s Olympic Games. How are you feeling?

SB: I am incredibly excited. The team has enjoyed a great cycle of results over the last few years and are in full confidence heading into Rio. I can’t wait to experience the carnival atmosphere out in Brazil; it is sure to be a very special Olympics.

SL: Great Britain’s first match of the Olympics is against Australia. What are your thoughts on that game and your other group opponents – Argentina, India, Japan and the US?

SB: It’s a big opening clash (against Australia) but it’s probably the best time to play them as they are still finding their feet in the competition. It’s a tricky group but ultimately all the teams will take points off each other and it’s key that we remain positive, win, lose or draw. The spirit in the group at the moment is fantastic. It was a difficult couple of weeks at the recent Champions Trophy and results certainly didn’t go as we would have wanted. Nevertheless, it was good to finish on a high with a victory against New Zealand. Winning the Europeans last year has given the group a huge amount of confidence and we believe we can go far in this competition.

SL: Finally, how big a part did sport play in your life growing up?

SB: I was born and brought up in Claygate, a lovely small village, and I always made full use of the sporting facilities. I loved playing football at the Recreation Ground and tennis at the Claygate Tennis Club. I’ll never forget playing for the Claygate Royals, my first football team. At first, I played with the boys and then there was a girls’ team, which was great. And of course my earliest hockey memories are playing as a colt for Surbiton. 
I’ll never forget where I started.

• Investec, the specialist bank and asset manager, supports women’s hockey from grass roots to national level. See 

Name: Paul Drinkhall

Sport: Table tennis (Olympics)

Originally from North Yorkshire, 26-year-old badminton ace Paul Drinkhall now lives in Addlestone with wife Joanna and son Dougie. Since taking up the sport at the age of seven, he has won a gold, two silver and one bronze medal at past Commonwealth Games while he also collected a bronze medal at the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year. Paul will be taking part in his second Olympic Games in Rio, having also competed at London 2012.

SL: How are preparations for the Olympics going?

PD: Things are going well. I’m not seeded to win a medal in Rio, but we (Great Britain’s table tennis team) were never seeded to do so in the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur (earlier this year) and we came back with a bronze. I also won the Spanish Open from being the 24-seed, so seeding really doesn’t mean everything.

SL: What do you class as your biggest career achievement to date?

PD: Winning gold in the mixed doubles at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. To achieve it playing alongside my wife (Joanna Drinkhall née Parker) made it even more special.

SL: Lastly, what do you enjoy most about living in Surrey?

PD: I’ve moved around a lot, so it’s nice to have that feeling of being settled. My wife will always have that strong affinity with Surrey, having come from the area originally and with her family still here too. We live in Addlestone and we got married at the Holy Family Church here in 2013 and then had a reception at the Ramada Hotel in Guildford. Our first son Dougie, who has just turned one, was born in Surrey and we have a second child on the way.

• For more information about table tennis in the country, visit

Name: Georgina Hermitage

Sport: Athletics (Paralympics)

At the time of writing, Georgina Hermitage had been chosen to represent Great Britain in both the women’s T37 100m and 400m events at this summer’s Paralympics and looked likely to be part of the 4x100m relay team too. The 27-year-old, who attended George Abbot School in Burpham, heads to Rio in red-hot form having won gold in the 400m and 4x100m events and silver in the 100m at last year’s IPC World Championships. Her performances are all the more impressive considering that the Guildford & Godalming AC sprinter only received her T37 classification to compete in 2013, while she spent much of 2014 sidelined with a stress-fracture to her foot.

SL: What inspired you to get involved in athletics?

GH: I got into athletics properly after London 2012 when I watched from the crowd as David Weir won the 5,000m event, which was a magical moment.

SL: How will you feel representing Great Britain at this summer’s Paralympic Games?

GH: Being selected to appear at a Paralympic Games myself is a huge honour and a real childhood dream come true. For me, there is no greater aspiration than to represent your country.

SL: As well as running for Guildford & Godalming Athletics Club, can you tell us about your other connections to Surrey?

GH: I was born at St Luke’s Hospital in Guildford and grew up in Burpham and Sutton Green before going to St Teresa’s Preparatory School in Effingham and then onto George Abbot School (in Burpham). These days, I divide my time between Binsted in Hampshire and Guildford. I do all my track training at Guildford Spectrum and I still spend a lot of time in the county walking my dog at Newlands Corner, in the Surrey Hills, and seeing my school friends who all still live in and around Guildford.

• For more about Great Britain’s athletes and para-athletes, see the British Athletics website at

Name: Tania Nadarajah

Sport: Archery (Paralympics)

Banstead-based Tania Nadarajah only took up archery two years ago, but she has already been the highest-scoring female recurve para-archer at the National Indoor Championships and is now in Team GB’s squad for the Paralympic Games in Rio. The 35-year-old, who is an experienced public relations professional and works for the charity Sportability (see more about them at, will compete in both the women’s individual recurve and the mixed team recurve open this summer.

SL: How excited are you at the prospect of competing at the Paralympic Games?

TN: I’m incredibly excited about being selected! It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and intense training. I only started archery just over two years ago so being chosen to be part of the Paralympics and representing the country at this highest level is a real honour.

SL: What first attracted you to archery?

TN: I tried archery with Sportability, a charity that provides sporting opportunities for people with paralysis, and really enjoyed it. A few months later, I saw a tweet from Archery GB calling for female recurve archers so I applied and was invited to a talent identification day. They obviously saw some potential in me as they put me on a fast-track training programme and I was selected for the GB para squad just six months later. I first represented Great Britain at an international competition just a year after first starting the sport.

SL: How long have you been living in Surrey and what do you enjoy doing when you have some down-time in the county?

TN: I moved with my family to Sutton in 1994 where I lived for four years before going to university. I lived in various places around London after graduating but I returned to Surrey in 2012 when I moved to Tadworth and I now live in Banstead. I don’t get much down-time at the moment but, when I do, I enjoy meeting up with friends. We like going to the gardens at RHS Wisley, near Woking, as there are always things to see and it’s a lovely, tranquil place.

• For more information on Tania and archery throughout Great Britain, visit

Name: Andrew Willis

Sport: Swimming (Olympics)

Swimmer Andrew Willis will be appearing in his second Olympic Games this summer having been selected to represent Great Britain in the 200m breaststroke in Rio. Four years ago, he finished third place overall in the heats, qualifying for the final of the 200m breaststroke where he came eighth. The 25-year-old was fourth in the World Championships in 2013 before winning the first major medal of his career, collecting a bronze at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

SL: What was it like competing in a home Olympics four years ago?

AW: London was an experience of a lifetime for me; competing in front of a home crowd was something I’ll never forget. It will always be my career highlight as nothing can beat the noise of the home crowd as I walked to my lane. My first international medal at the Commonwealth Games is another massive highlight for me.

SL: Where in Surrey did you grow up?

AW: I was born in Frimley and lived in Yateley growing up. I went to Yateley School and then the Farnborough Sixth Form College. I moved to Bath in 2009, where I studied Chemical Engineering at Bath University, and joined the Bath National Training Centre.

SL: What brings you back to the county these days?

AW: Now I mostly go home to Surrey to see my family and relax with them. A change of scenery always helps when I’m in the midst of a hard training schedule.

• British Swimming’s official website can be found by visiting


The Olympic legacy

Here, Campbell Livingston, director of Active Surrey, which promotes sport and physical activity across our county, shares his thoughts on the legacy of London 2012

“The 2012 Games gave everyone a renewed sense of pride in what Britain could do – i.e. delivering world-class events – and the Games Makers showed how much fun it is to volunteer,” says Campbell. “In Surrey, we still have 2012 volunteers helping at local activities such as the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100, and are recruiting even more people (young and old) to volunteer at events such as the Surrey Youth Games.

“Post-Games, sports participation numbers increased and Surrey is the most active county in England! Also, national and regional campaigns to encourage more females to be active (This Girl Can) and to coach their peers (Project 500 and Run England) have been great successes with more women than ever being involved.

“But whilst the overall increase has been sustained, more than half of the country still don’t exercise enough and this has triggered a new strategic approach from Government and Sport England to shift the focus to solving the inactivity problem once and for all.

“So, for me, the real legacy of the Games has been the wider understanding by decision-makers that sport and physical activity is not just about competition or elite athletes but is also about every single resident’s mental, physical and social wellbeing.”

• For more on sport and physical activity in Surrey, see the Active Surrey website at

More from Surrey Life


From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Yesterday, 14:32

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Yesterday, 12:56

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Yesterday, 12:13

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Friday, November 9, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Year 5 pupils at Reigate St Mary’s School (RSM) who designed and carried out a community project as part of a UK wide Make a Difference Challenge, have won the London area competition for their stunning scrapbook record of their project

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search