Local Olympians ready for Tokyo

By Connor Steel / Photograph, Andy Hooper (Daily Mail)

DELAYED for one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics began yesterday with a slimmed down opening ceremony with no fans allowed to attend this year’s major sporting showcase.

With favourites such as athlete Dina Asher-Smith and swimming hero Adam Peaty, hopes will be high for all Team GB athletes as they look to beat their Rio 2016 record of 67 medals; which included 27 golds as Britain came second in the medal table in Brazil.

But this time around there is a local interest to these Olympics, with three athletes connected to Gosport and Fareham taking part over the next two weeks including a gold medallist from Rio.

Maddie Hinch (Field Hockey Goalkeeper)

Maddie Hinch, originally from the area of Hill Head, is due to represent the women’s field hockey side hoping to retain the gold medal won in 2016.

The goalkeeper, now 32 years old, became a household name five years ago as she saved four penalties in the Rio final to help her team as they succeeded expectations and boosted the profile of women’s hockey across the country. She is hoping for a similar success this time around, with the Team GB’s journey starting on Sunday morning (1.30am) versus Germany, starting a long fortnight of matches before a potential final on August 6.

Team GB, with Maddie Hinch in goal, will then play South Africa on Monday morning at 10.45am and India on Wednesday (2am) in pool A. The final ‘qualification’ games conclude with Great Britain facing Netherlands in a repeat of the Gold Medal final in 2016 on Thursday (July 29) at 11am and finishing with Ireland next Saturday with a tap-off time of 12.45pm UK Time. Any potential quarter final will be played on August 2, with the semi finals played two days later (04/08); the bronze and gold medals will be contested on Friday, August 6.

Declan Brooks (BMX Freestyle)

Confirmed in 2019, BMX freestyle will be making its Olympic debut this year in a move aimed to encourage a youthful atmosphere to the showcase, with Portchester-raised star Declan Brooks bidding to become the first ever gold medallist of the event.

The athlete, who is only 24 years old, regularly trained at Southsea Skatepark on weekends in his youth and qualified for the sport after events across the UK in early 2020 before his training schedule was heavily disrupted due to closures of parks and indoor activities last spring.

Now back to his daily routines after lockdowns, he is looking forward to his first major sporting event and hopes that any success in his quest for gold can boost the profile of BMX freestyle and racing; a sport that was only founded in 2008 and was officially registered as an Olympic sport two years ago.

In an interview with Meridian ITV, Brookes said: “It’s starting to feel real I have told everyone and we’ve done our kitting out. It’s super exciting. “For them to see now that it’s got even bigger and it’s an Olympic sport they will just want to get involved and actually know it’s real.”

The BMX freestyle won’t actually start until July 31 (next Saturday) at the Ariake Urban Sports Park, with a seeding and qualificationevent starting at 11.20am.

Twenty-four hours later will see the Men’s Park Final on August 1, in which Declan Brookes is hoping to end in first place on the podium. Due to Covid-19 bubble regulations, the BMX star will be back in Britain within 48 hours after these races, regardless of his qualification or success in Japan. The women’s event will run alongside these times, but will begin at 10am UK Time on both days.

Becky Muzerie (Women’s Eight Rower)

As reported in our Globe article dated July 11, Stubbington will be represented by the Women’s Eight Rower Becky Muzerie. Born in Fareham and studying at local schools including Crofton / Bay House, the 31-year-old starting her Olympic Quest on the first day of action earlier (Saturday, July 24).

Participating alongside seven other team members on the Sea Forest Waterway in the early hours UK Time, Great Britain came bottom of Heat One finishing 16 seconds behind China in third with a time of 6:26:76 minutes. New Zealand and the United States the only two teams to qualify for the final race next week.

Team GB, including Muzerie, will join a host of teams in the Repechage stage of the Women’s Eight, getting a second chance to reach the final. This race will start at 2.05am UK time on Wednesday (July 28); with China, Canada, Romania and Australia proving a difficult challenge on a course confirmed at being 2,335m in length. Should Great Britain’s Women’s eights team reach the final, this will be held on Friday morning at 2.05am UK time, the early starts being down to Japan’s waters being calmer in the first few hours of daylight.

Every moment of the 2020 Olympics will be covered using BBC TV / I-Player  and Eurosport, marking the first time that the BBC has not shown every sport live in over 40 years in a landmark deal with broadcasters. Coverage mainly starts at midnight (UK Time) every day and finishes at 3pm depending on the sports, with special highlight programmes in the evening. The Olympics is set to run until August 8, before the Paralympics begins in Japan 16 days later.