Cheshire's sporting heroes going for gold in the Olympics
PUBLISHED: 12:14 16 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:38 20 February 2013
Cheshire's sporting heroes will give us all something to cheer for in the Olympics. With a combined total of 127 major medals and honours to their name, Cheshire's finest will be flying the county's flag at London 2012. COMPILED BY STEVE GIBBS
Cheshires sporting heroes will give us all something to cheer for in the Olympics. With a combined total of 127 major medals and honours to their name, Cheshires finest will be flying the countys flag at London 2012.
COMPILED BY STEVE GIBBS
Ben Ainslie MBE OBE CBE: Sailing Macclesfield
Great Britains most successful Olympic sailor of all-time is going for his fourth gold medal at Weymouths National Sailing Academy this summer. Macclesfield-born Ainslie won the first of his eleven World Championships aged just 16, and an Olympic medal just three years later, and has dominated the sport for almost two decades.
Having switched from Laser to the more technical Finn class of boat, and now set up his own team to participate in the Americas Cup World Series, the ambition of Ainslie son of a renowned skipper who participated in the very first Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973 remains undiluted.
A compressed nerve in his back, and disqualification from Decembers World Championships for an altercation with a photographer, threatened to disrupt his preparations. Ainslie, though, has responded in typically determined fashion, and in May signalled his intent for 2012 by winning a sixth Finn world title.
Andy Baddeley: 1500m Wirral
Team GBs premier middle-distance runner became the first Briton to qualify for the Olympic 1500 metres by running the A qualifying time at the end of April. Baddeley has won the AAA national championship three times, and has a string of international finals to his name, but is yet to push for a podium place.
Sixth place in the 2010 Commonwealth Games is his highest ranking, alongside ninth in both Beijing and at the 2007 World Championships.
About to turn 30, the Upton-born athlete boasts a double first from a Masters engineering degree at Cambridge University. He has, though, chosen a career in athletes despite suffering from asthma and having a 2 electrocardiogram implant in his chest to correct an irregular heartbeat brought on by stress and fatigue.
Richard Egington: Rowing Warrington
Egington has already earned a silver medal on the world stage this year, as part of the Mens Eight at the opening World Cup event of the season in Belgrade. That team acts as a big pointer as to who will pass muster for Olympic selection from oldthe all-conquering GB rowing squad, and Egington is expected to get the chance to add to the silver medal he won at the 2008 Olympics.
That boat finished less than 1.5 seconds behind gold medallists Canada, but such is the strength of British rowing it is almost as hard to gain selection as win a medal. The 33 year-old, who learnt to row at Warrington School, almost quit the sport after Beijing due to the punishing training schedule, yet has since returned to claim two World Championship gold medals in the Mens Coxless Four and eight World Cup series medals.
Francesca Halsall: Swimmer Northwich
Already the holder of 19 international medals, 13 national championships and 4 national records, 22 year-old Francesca Halsall has ample opportunity to add an Olympic medal to her impressive haul. The only British swimmer to qualify for five events in London, Halsall is aiming for success in the individual 50 and 100 metre freestyle and 100 metre butterfly races, plus two 4 x 100 metre relays.
In 2010 she won five medals, including two golds, as Halsall became the most successful swimmer ever at a single European Championships. She then followed that up, just two months later, with another five medals at the Commonwealth Games, including gold in the 50 metre butterfly.
Add to that a World Championship silver medal and three finals in Beijing, plus a nomination for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year, and Halsall is establishing herself as one of the finest sprint swimmers in the world.
Paula Radcliffe MBE: Marathon Davenham
Davenhams legendary marathon runner can boast the three fastest times in history, but has also experienced her share of pain in major events. A hugely-impressive career, which has brought gold medals in World an d European Championships and the Commonwealth Games, as well as the 10,000 metres road race world record, cannot disguise her self-confessed under-performance in Olympic competition.
Now, despite further struggles with injury and a loss of form, Radcliffe hopes that her familiarity with the London 2012 course, which begins and ends on The Mall, will finally earn the 38 year-old a medal in her fifth Olympic Games. The former BBC Sports Personality of the Year has won three times in London, to add to two victories in New York and one in Chicago, and has embarked upon a programme of altitude training in Kenya arguably the home of long distance running to improve her chances.
Shanaze Reade: BMX Crewe
Blessed with the power of a Jamaican and the luck of the Irish, as she boasts on her Twitter account, three-time World Champion Shanaze Reade is inevitably favourite for BMX gold. A self-confessed hyperactive child, Reade continues to do everything in a hurry perhaps sometimes too much, after crashing out in pushing for victory in the 2008 Olympic final.
Now, as then, settling for silver will not be enough, as she negotiates what she reckons to be the toughest BMX course ever in London. Inspired to ride by fellow Crewe resident and BMX professional Jamie Staff, Reade has also been a track cycling World Champion, partnering Victoria Pendleton to the 2007 Womens Team Pursuit title.
Entirely unused to failure she has won both junior and senior world titles in her first season of competition Reade nearly retired after falling out of love with the sport, but the lure of home victory proved too great.
Beth Tweddle MBE: Gymnastics Bunbury
Great Britains most successful gymnast of all time a woman with 10 major gold medals to her name has single-handedly brought worldwide respectability to the sport in this country. Born in Johannesburg but raised in Bunbury, Tweddle began her career aged seven with the Crewe and Nantwich Club.
Now, with World and European Championship titles to add to her Commonwealth Games gold, the only accolade missing from her outstanding career is an Olympic medal. At the age of 27 she may be something of a veteran, but Tweddle remains a fine ambassador for her sport.
Painful memories of a fourth-place finish in Beijing, amidst accusations of Chinese cheating, saw her ambition and self-esteem plummet to the point where she nearly retired. However, with characteristic determination, Tweddle is making good progress in her recovery from knee surgery and is confident of success
Matthew Walker MBE: Para swimming Marple
Despite winning 35 major medals in a fine 15 year career, including 11 at the Paralympics, the one thing missing from Matt Walkers CV is an individual Paralympic gold.
Initially terrified of water when he began swimming, as part of his boyhood treatment for cerebral palsy, Walker became the only disabled swimmer to represent England at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, where he won bronze in the 50 metre freestyle.
Walker claimed a medal in each of his five events at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing 50 metre freestyle, 50 metre butterfly, 100m freestyle, 200 metre individual medley and 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay and will once again be going for a unique quintet in London. This will be his fourth Games and, after three medley relay gold medals, the 34 year-old will be aiming for personal success in the Aquatics Centre.
Kate Walsh: Hockey Stockport
One of only nine women to pass 100 caps for Great Britain, and approaching a further 200 international caps for England, Kate Walsh has captained her country for nine years. She led Team GB to gold in the Olympic test event in May, beating fierce rivals Argentina in the final to exact revenge for Champions Trophy final defeat on Argentinian soil in January.
That success may prove a watershed for British womens hockey, after coming so near yet so far with a series of European Championship, World Cup and Commonwealth Games bronze medals in the last decade.
London will be the 32 year-old defenders third Olympic Games and, after finishing sixth in Beijing, Walsh must be confident of becoming Great Britains first Olympic hockey medallist since the famous Jane Sixsmith-inspired team of 1992.
Johny Akinyemi, 23, canoeing, Nigerian based in Warrington
David Bain, 19, canoeing, Chester
Niki Birrell, 25, Paralympic sailing, Knutsford
Adrian Derbyshire, 37, Paralympic fencing, Warrington
Tom James, 28, rowing, Coedpoeth
Jade Jones, 19, taekwondo, Flint
Holly Lam-Moores, 21, handball, Warrington
Jo Leedham, 24, basketball, Chester
Lucy Martin, 22, track cycling, Widnes
Jenni Pinches, 18, gymnastics, Macclesfield
Scott Robertson, 35, Paralympic table tennis, Saltney
Oly Stanley, 25, triathlon, Chester
Lauren Thomas-Johnson, 24, basketball, Stockport
Hannah Whelan, 19, gymnastics, Stockport
Olivia Whitlam, 26, rowing, DaresburyMatt