As this edition of Roundabout lands on your doormat, the start of the 2012 Olympic Games will be fewer than 150 days away. Billed as the London Olympics, there is plenty to excite us here in the North East.
In fact, the Games commence in Newcastle, at the stadium still referred to in Olympic publicity as St James’s Park, on 26 July – the day before the official opening ceremony in London. St James’s Park will host nine Olympic football matches, including quarter-finals in the men’s and women’s events for which tickets remain relatively available.
Several athletes from the North East are pursuing their Olympic and Paralympics dreams in 2012.
Among them is long jumper Chris Tomlinson, 30, from Middlesbrough and the current holder of the British indoor and outdoor records. A calf injury robbed Tomlinson of his medal chances at the 2008 Beijing Games, while he finished fifth in Athens four years earlier. Having finished11th in last summer’s world championships, Tomlinson has been recovering from a knee injury. “I build, improve and get better and as long as I can be fit and healthy I have the belief I can go the whole way,” he said in a recent BBC interview.
Jessica Eddie, 27, from Durham, started rowing on the River Wear when she was just eight years old. She finished fifth in the women’s eight in Beijing and more recent form is even better. At last year’s world championships in Slovenia, Eddie was part of the crew that won bronze and during the 2011 World Cup Series in Munich she raced in the women’s eight, taking silver.
John Robertson was one of the very first athletes to be named in the 2012 GB Paralympic team. The Sunderland man forms part of a crew of three racing in the Sonar class sailing event at Weymouth in September. Competing together since 2003, they finished sixth in the last two Paralympics but second at the recent world championships also in Weymouth, only narrowly missing out on gold. “We’re in a much better place coming into these this Games than at the previous two, and it’s amazing how much we can see that we’ve moved forwards,” Robertson has said.
These and other Olympic and Paralympics hopefuls are seeking to emulate or even surpass their Olympic forbears from the region.
Charlie Spedding from Bishop Auckland took an unexpected bronze in the men’s marathon in his first Olympics at the age of 34 in Los Angeles in 1984.
Steve Cram, ‘The Jarrow Arrow’, competed in three consecutive Games, each time making the 1,500 metres final. He took the silver medal in a GB one-two in Los Angeles in 1984 behind Seb, now Lord, Coe – the man responsible for the London Olympics.
Having won a silver medal in the men’s triple jump at Atlanta in 1996, then world record holder Jonathan Edwards went on to win gold four years later at the age of 34 in Sydney. Although born in London, Edwards, who still lives in Newcastle, was, like Cram, a member of the Gateshead Harriers athletic club.
The Olympic torch will be carried down the coast from Alnwick through Whitley Bay and Tynemouth on Friday 15th June on its way to Newcastle, where it will be zip-wired from the Tyne Bridge onto the Quayside. Eventually coming to rest in London for 17 days this summer, the Olympic flame should have already ignited the North East on its journey there.
by David Tickner © 2012
David Tickner is an English teacher in the independent sector and an aspiring writer. He has a fascination with all sports and a particular love for Gillingham FC! David and his family have lived in Tynemouth for the past five years. He can be contacted at email@example.com.