FROM LONDON TO LOWESTOFT – UEA GETS OLYMPIC FEVER
With GB’s Olympians excelling in the stadium, The Tab talks to UEA athletics to see if the games inspired a generation here in Norwich
After the unprecedented success of Team GB at this summer’s Olympics, The Tab caught up with Chris Blandford, javelin thrower and Head of Communications, to talk training, freshers, and all things London 2012.
Almost from the outset, Sebastian Coe, head of Britain’s bid to host the games, promised to ‘inspire a generation’. It appears these words have already had a significant impact on UEA – around 150 new students signed up for the Athletics Club at this year’s Sportsmart, and Blandford describes the Games as a “massive boost”. He cited internationally renowned heroes such as Usain Bolt as key factors towards this sudden influx of new talent. “Athletes like Bolt are obviously a massive inspiration to people” and “after any major sporting event there are always hundreds of people wanting to try it out”.
What is more, with Team GB grabbing gold in such a wide variety of sporting events, we can expect to see new faces across a host of sports UEA Athletics caters for, from 100m sprinting to shot-put. In what has been a momentous year for athletes, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Athletics Club has been chosen as one of the university’s ‘focal sports’ – meaning increased funding and new proposals to develop the club even further.
Blandford attributes the surge in numbers not only to the influence of the Olympics, but also to the Club’s commitment to emphasise the social side of athletics and not just the importance of competition. That said, he expects big things this year – “we definitely have a good chance in the 400m sprint and the 400m hurdles, with Dai Greene obviously being a massive inspiration there. But with the amount of freshers who have signed up we could do well in a huge variety of events”.
Freshers were able to view the success of the Club for themselves at Sportsmart, being shown pictures of UEA athletes training at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. “This year the Club has marketed itself alongside the Olympics, and last year’s visit to the Olympic Stadium has really shown freshers the opportunities you can have from being part of it,” says Blandford. “The fact that athletics is the headline sport at the Games also gives us an advantage, as people naturally want to get involved”. The key is to sustain this interest in the future, a job partly down to the coaches at the Club itself. Blandford, who also coaches, believes the Olympics was an ideal opportunity to pick up technical tips from top trainers around the world.
Each September sees a settling in period of a few weeks and despite enduring some “hectic” training sessions, it looks as though the Club, as well as its athletes, are getting into great shape for the new season.