The Olympics are just around the corner but work has already begun to source talent for future Games and one of Scotland’s greatest ever Olympians is hoping the make-up of the squads will reflect more accurately the nation’s social diversity.
Dame Katherine Grainger, who competed at five Olympics and won medals in every one, is backing a campaign to encourage young people from all communities to demonstrate their sporting potential.
Called ‘From Home 2 The Games’, the aim is to find 11 to 23-year-olds who could participate in the Olympics and 15 to 34-year-olds with an impairment which makes them eligible for Paralympic sport.
Inclusivity is key, with Grainger keen to break down barriers. A third of Britain’s medallists at the 2016 Olympics in Rio went to private schools but the former rower knows that spreading the net wider would increase the chances of success.
“The real drive behind it is to look wider and further into towns and cities and communities that haven’t really felt involved before,” said Grainger, an Olympic gold medallist at the London 2012 Games. “We want people to feel that the doors are open.
“Young people who may have an interest or a passion but might never have thought of anything as lofty as the Olympics or Paralympics – maybe there’s some potential there that’s worth exploring and that’s exciting for all of us.”
Many sports, including her own, are still perceived as elitist but Grainger is working to change that.
“Sports want to capture as many people as possible and find out where the real talent is and to see where that potential could lead,” she said. “But to do that you really need to make sure that everyone who could be interested feels there is a genuine opportunity for them.
“I did sport at school but never thought about the Olympics but had some brilliant teachers and coaches who nudged me in the right direction. But you don’t want to rely on a young person having the right advice at the right time to take this journey, you want to feel that anyone reading this now can click on a website and put in some details about themselves and see if the potential is there. Everyone should be able to take part if they want to.”
For ‘From Home 2 The Games’ you are asked to take part in three simple challenges and submit results and videos.
For an Olympic sport, they are a 20-metre sprint, a two-footed jump and an open skill challenge, which can be a 30-second clip of your choice. For Paralympic sport, potential athletes need to complete a 20m push or sprint, a pick-up and throw and an open skill challenge.
Katherine Grainger won rowing gold at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Grainger, now the chair of UK Sport, has seen similar talent identification schemes yield results in past and success stories include double Olympic champions Lizzy Yarnold (in the skeleton) and Helen Glover (rowing).
Grainger hopes the simplicity of the idea will encourage a big take-up.
“You don’t need equipment, you don’t need to be in a particular area or ground, just in a garden or street and we’re genuinely hoping people will feel ‘oh I could do that’.”
Potential athletes can join From Home 2 The Games by completing three simple challenges and submitting their results at www.FromHome2TheGames.com
By Graham Bean, The Scotsman