The Olympic legacy in Surrey ~ sporting stars of the future

PUBLISHED: 08:33 27 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:26 20 February 2013

The Olympic legacy in Surrey ~ sporting stars of the future

The Olympic legacy in Surrey ~ sporting stars of the future

With our glorious summer of sport now behind us, here, in a special report, we look at how the Olympic legacy will live on in our county and the steps being put in place to help the sports stars of tomorrow

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2012

With our glorious summer of sport now behind us, here, in a special report, we look at how the Olympic legacy will live on in our county and the steps being put in place to help the sports stars of tomorrow

Words: John Whitbread

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Right from the start, the dream of providing a Games legacy was one of the major planks of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics bid. Now, with the dust finally settling on one of the most unforgettably joyous summers in Britains recent history, we must do everything we can to deliver on the legacy promise, just as our stupendous athletes delivered to us a glorious record haul of medals and outstanding performances.

Here in Surrey of course, we were privileged to have the cycling coming through the county, and what an extraordinarily inspiring experience that turned out to be for everyone from the organisers to the volunteer stewards and, perhaps most of all, the many thousands of people who lined the route to cheer on Bradley Wiggins, Lizzie Armistead et al.

Now we have to build on those Olympic triumphs and ideals and not let them become just a warming memory and, in particular, we need to support and enable youngsters inspired by Great Britains successes to find where they can go to follow their dreams.

Where to start
The first port of call for any youngster, adult or parent, whether here in Surrey or further afield, is Sport England (, the government agency responsible for creating a world- class community sport environment. They have full details on every sport that featured in the Olympics, as well as many more besides.

We are focused on helping people and communities across the country create a sporting habit for life, says Richard Lewis, chairman of Sport England. Over the next few years, we will be investing over 1 billion of National Lottery and Exchequer funding in organisations and projects that will create more opportunities for young people to play sport, providing the right facilities in the right places and nurturing and developing talent. This will ensure real opportunities for communities.

Closer to home is Active Surrey ( / 01483 518944), who work with a wide range of partners, including Sport England, local authorities, schools, governing bodies and clubs, to make Surrey a more active and successful sporting county. They also run Sportivate, a lottery-funded scheme that forms part of Sport Englands legacy plans, providing free or low cost coaching in a sport for six to eight weeks. This gives young people the chance to try a sport they may not otherwise have been able to experience and then helps them to find out where to continue after the course is up. Interestingly, local organisations and clubs can also apply to Active Surrey for funding and support to run these programmes themselves.

It is really fantastic for Active Surrey to support Surrey clubs in delivering so many exciting Sportivate sessions, says Eli Karlicka-Cook, community sports development manager at Active Surrey. The results speak for themselves with lots of young people enjoying all kinds of activities for free or at discounted prices.

Even some of the Olympic medallists themselves have given their backing to the project, such as London 2012 bronze medallist Liam Heath, who is a local lad and very supportive of the project.

It was a similar scheme to Sportivate that first got me into a boat down at Wey Kayak Club, and Sportivate is a fantastic way to inspire and encourage young people into the sport I love, says Liam. This Olympic Games has been absolutely incredible and now that it has come to an end I feel that its true value, in its power to inspire, is just beginning.

An Olympic trailblazer
One of Surreys most successful clubs during the Games was Molesey Boat Club ( / 0208 979 6583). They sent eight rowers to Etons superb Dorney Lake and returned with a magical haul of two golds (Andrew Triggs Hodge and Tom James in the mens four) and five bronze medals (James Foad, Greg Searle, Tom Ransley, George Nash and Cameron Nichol in the mens eight).

It is an amazing triumph for the club and we are really proud of them all, says new captain Ben Pugh. We have a great tradition of providing rowers for our country, but it is also a very family-oriented club, with a great friendly atmosphere.

Indeed, it was not only in the latest Games that the club triumphed; they have an Olympic heritage dating back decades.

The momentum has been building here for more than 20 years, and especially since the Searle brothers won gold in Barcelona in 1992, says Ian Knight, club president and son of Moleseys 1960 Olympian Richard Knight. The way the club is run, though, we can cater for novices through to elite competitors. We can also cater for all ages, male and female.

When I started to get involved in the 1970s, only one in six rowers was from a comprehensive school but that is no longer the case. We go out to as many schools in the area as we can reach. You can only succeed if you have a broad base.

We may be one of the centres for high-performance British rowing, but we are the only one who also participates in local regattas and we are very proud of that.

Dont miss the boat
If, however, you were inspired by the sailing heroics of Ben Ainslie and his fellow Olympians down at Weymouth, you should try the Queen Mary Sailing Club ( / 01784 248881), who train and compete on the huge Queen Mary Reservoir, between Sunbury and Ashford. The home club for Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb, two of the famous Three Blondes in a Boat who won gold in Beijing four years ago, there was more medal glory at this years Paralympics when club member Alexandra Rickham sailed to bronze with her partner Niki Burrell.

Since the Olympics, we have had a significant number of people wanting to join, says commodore Andrew Craig of the Queen Mary Sailing Club. We also held several taster sessions for sailing and windsurfing and each one was fully booked.

There is a terrific family spirit at our club and I was reminded of that a few weeks ago when Sarah Ayton, who began sailing here when she was just six years old, was out sailing on the lake with her three-year-old son Tom.

The Queen Mary club runs classes for both boys and girls, starting from the smallest Topper class, with the chance to move on later to the big racing 470s.

Wheel inspiration
Meanwhile, those of us who shared in the tremendous community spirit that surrounded the Olympic cycle road races and time trials through the county will be delighted to know that the cycling legacy looks set to continue. Not only did we go on to hold the final leg of the Tour of Britain, but there are now hopes that we will play host to a stage of the Tour de France. Surrey County Council announced its bid to try and attract the worlds most famous bike race just hours after Bradley Wiggins stormed to gold in the mens time trial.

Surrey has been the epicentre of world cycling, cementing the countys reputation as a world-class place to ride, says leader of the county council David Hodge. Now we would like to bring the Tour de France here to build on the outstanding success of the Olympic event.

Staging the Surrey sections of the Olympic races took several years of planning, with 42 miles of roadside barriers deployed as well as 5,000 cones, 4,000 signs and 545 road closures as well as countless spectators lining the route. Its no wonder really that a whole new generation of youngsters are itching to get in the saddle.

We have been delighted by the number of youngsters who have been inspired by London 2012 to take up cycling, which can bring great benefits in physical fitness and independence, says Alan Fordham, of Get Surrey Cycling. To meet the demand, four of our clubs Redhill, Dorking, Guildford and Woking have signed up to British Cyclings Go-Ride programme which helps to get six to 16-year-olds into cycling and we hope more may follow.

The programme provides a fun and safe way to introduce young riders to the world of cycle sport and the ideal platform to improve their bike handling skills. Getting involved is easy, either with a local Go-Ride Club or through one of the many holiday coaching programmes where young people can start enjoying one of the fastest growing sports in the UK today (find out more at

The legacy lives on
Looking at the overall effect, not only of the cycling here in Surrey but of the Games as a whole, many sporting experts believe this is a once in a lifetime chance and we must strike while the medals are still relatively hot. Maybe there will be one of our readers who will be inspired and in four years time will be starring in Rio. That would be great, of course, but equally wonderful would be simply to encourage youngsters (and not-so-youngsters) to be the very best they can be in their chosen discipline.

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