London's future Olympics stars: update

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Are the four 2012 hopefuls we featured on our special collectors‘ covers in July 2007 still on course for Olympic glory?

  • 52 Athletes004.jpg

    Ali Jawad

    Age

    18.

    Sport

    Powerlifting.

    Club

    Wood Green Weightlifting Club.Ali reached international standard in judo but, as there’s no category for his disability in the Paralympics (he was born without legs), he switched to powerlifting and made an immediate impact. Born in Lebanon and living in Tottenham, Ali has won the British title three times. Last year he won the European Junior Championships.

    What’s happened over the last six months?

    ‘Before Christmas, I went to the second Powerlifting Cup in Kuala Lumpur. My coach and I decided before going out there that I’d compete in both the junior and senior competitions. I equalled my personal-best weight to win a junior silver medal but I also got a senior bronze. That was a shock, I didn’t expect it. I was actually well down on my personal best but I still managed to come third.

    ‘I’m a full-time athlete at the moment. I got my A Level grades at Woodhouse College, Finchley, and have a place to study sports science at London Metropolitan University, but that’s on hold as I’ve decided to take a year out to train. I was voted Haringey’s Disabled Sports Performer of the Year and they granted me a sports scholarship which helps to pay for things. I also get funding from UK Sport. Because I live at home, my parents help out as well.

    ‘There are two important competitions in January. The UK Open was in Cardiff last weekend, then there’s a closed event on January 31. They’re my last two chances to qualify for Beijing. Looking at the world rankings, I think I need to lift 175kg or 180kg. I’m confident I can do it. If I get the weight, there will be six months when I won’t compete. It’ll be train, train, train. Then in June, the British Championships will give me a chance to see how everything’s going. I know that I’ll have to push myself as hard as I can.’

    52 Athletes001.jpg

    Perri Shakes-Drayton

    Age

    18.

    Sport

    Athletics (400m hurdles).

    Club

    Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC.In 2006, Perri was Great Britain’s leading under-17 hurdler. That same year, she finished eighth at the World Junior Championships in Beijing. Last July, she came second at the European Junior Championships in Holland. She’s now ranked first in her age group and third in the seniors. She’s also studying psychology, PE, philosophy and ethics at Bishop Challoner College, Tower Hamlets.

    What’s happened over the last six months?

    ‘At the European juniors in Holland, I beat the Russian athlete, who was expected to win, into third place. It was amazing! Unfortunately I was pipped on the line by the German girl but I broke the British record. Holland was a nice place to run: not too hot, not too cold, except for one day when my race got rained off.‘I now train seven days a week. You have to be emotionally and physically tough. I do drills, weights and steady running. It’s harder in the winter when it’s cold and rainy and you have to wear loads of clothes to stay warm. It’s tiring but it’s worth it.‘I will know in June whether I’ve been selected to take part in the 4 x 400m relay in Beijing. I’m really looking forward to the prospect of participating in the Olympics although I still need to take a second off my personal best time.’52 Athletes002.jpg

    Jamie Ruiz

    Age

    19.

    Sport

    Hockey.

    Club

    None.Jamie played football as part of Fulham’s academy for five years but after taking up hockey at Kingston Grammar School he won England junior honours in three age groups. Last September, he began studying geography at Nottingham University with the intention of playing for Beeston. However, events have taken an unexpected turn…

    What’s happened over the last six months?

    ‘I originally started at Manchester University but I was driving hundreds of miles a week for training and playing and it wasn’t working out. My idea was to move to Nottingham University and play for Beeston, who are one of the top clubs in the England Hockey League and located just over the road, and also be 20 minutes from Loughborough University where most national squad sessions are held.‘It was only a couple of weeks before going to Nottingham that I decided to take a break from hockey altogether, to give myself the best chance of settling in. I’m going to the gym, running and keeping fit but I’m not playing hockey at all, not even for the university. If I take a complete rest, I can make an informed decision at the end of my first year about whether to start playing again.‘England Hockey have been very understanding. I felt it was in my best interests now, and if I do go back to the sport then I think it will benefit my game in the long term. There was continuous pressure on me to do the training, eat the right things, as well as study hard and try to enjoy being a student.‘The only reason I play sport is for enjoyment and if I’m not enjoying it, why play? I wanted to throw myself into university life, which I’ve done, but lately I’ve found I’m starting to miss hockey. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back.’52 Athletes003.jpg

    Chrystall Nicoll

    Age

    21.

    Sport

    Fencing (sabre).

    Club

    Brentwood Fencing Club.Originally from Dorset and now living in Essex, Chrystall began fencing ten years ago when her mum took her to an evening class. She was a quarter-finalist at world under-17 level, won the Commonwealth sabre title in 2002 and reached the European junior semi-finals a year later.

    What’s happened over the last six months?

    ‘I took part in the Pro Sabre Championships in Cornwall in October and came first. My prize money was £400 which I used to buy a new carpet! I finished thirty-third in the World Championships the same month. I was disappointed: my target was a place in the top 32. I’m nervous and excited about the Olympic qualifiers in February. It’ll be a bonus if I qualify for Beijing because, really, I’ve got my sights set on 2012.‘Training is very draining. I live in Wickford and have to travel up to two-and-a-half hours every morning to a gym in Finsbury Park. I start at 9.30am and finish at 12 noon after doing weight training, circuit training and swimming. I also have a part-time sales job at Coca-Cola so I have to fit it in around that.‘I get frustrated if I’m not improving. It’s a very competitive environment which can take its toll.To relax, I like spending time with my boyfriend and our cats. Although we’ve just got a new kitten, so there goes that carpet…’

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