A NUMBER OF athletes are representing Berkshire in the Tokyo Olympic games this summer.
From overcoming a family loss to facing negativity on social media, each one has to conquer their own challenges thrown up by the coronavirus pandemic.
For some of these athletes, it will be their very first Olympics.
Sadly, shooter Amber Hill from Windsor had to pull out after testing positive for Covid-19.
She received the news before she flew out to Tokyo, where she was due to compete in Sunday’s qualifying for the women’s skeet event.
These are the athletes competing in Tokyo.
Harriet Taylor – Rower
Age 27 from Sunningdale, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
The past 18 months has provided countless obstacles for rower Hattie but she has come out the other side stronger and more unified than ever before.
She will be part of the 45-strong rowing squad for Team GB, joining Rowan McKellar, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten in the women’s four.
She said: “I think after the disruption this last year, it’s been easier to block it on Twitter – you can block key words like Tokyo, Covid stuff and whatever the specific words are. Everyone’s shared experience of the past year, year-and-half that it’s been has just brought everyone so much closer together, even at the point where we had to split up.”
Tom Dean – Swimmer
Age: 21 from Maidenhead
Dean first moved to the University of Bath from his hometown of Maidenhead in 2018 to combine training full-time with the world-renowned British Swimming National Centre Bath, based on campus in the £35million Team Bath Sports Training Village, with studying Mechanical Engineering.
He deferred his second year to concentrate fully on qualifying for the Olympics, only for the Games to be postponed for 12 months due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but the University allowed Dean to defer again for the 2020-21 academic year while continuing to support him through a Bill Whiteley Sporting Scholarship.
He said: “I think we’ve got a real fighting chance out in Japan.
“It’s starting to get to crunch time and it’s exciting. This is my first Olympics. It’s been a dream of mine to be an Olympian and represent Team GB for as long as I can remember. I think it’s going to be even more exciting to be part of a unique Olympics that will be unlike any other, I can’t wait.”
Fran Kirby – Football
Age: 27 from Reading
Reading-born Kirby was laid low with an inflammatory heart condition that would have ruled her out of the 2020 dates for the Games and could have ended her career.
As a teenager, she lost her mother Denise suddenly to a brain haemorrhage and says she thinks about her influence every day.
Kirby joined the Reading academy aged seven and played for them until 2015, when she joined Chelsea.
The diminutive winger broke out on the international stage for England the 2015 World Cup and was part of England’s run to the semi-finals at the 2019 tournament.
Taylor Campbell – Athletics
Age 24 from Slough
Hammer thrower Taylor spent as much time possible improving his hammer by finding places to throw and new ways to keep lifting weights in isolation to keep his Olympic dream alive.
In June 2021, he locked up his Tokyo selection after winning gold at the Müller British Athletics Championships with a stadium record throw of 75.10m.
And with a personal best of 78.23m in his locker, the hammer thrower will be hoping he’s able to launch his way on to the podium on his Games debut.
Matt Rossiter – Rower
Age 31 from Newbury, West Berkshire
Matt Rossiter started working on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park selling memorabilia to the masses and rued an injury that meant he was not competing.
A debilitating back problem threatened to impede his path to the Games after a prodigious junior career, including world junior and Youth Olympic gold medals.
He then turned his life around and returned to sport in 2016, rowing alongside Ollie Cook, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie.
The quartet shouldered the expectation brought by Britain’s historic success in their event, winning two world golds in the cycle and European gold in 2021.
Jack Beaumont – Rower
Age 27 from Maidenhead
Jack Beaumont was the youngest member of the Great Britain rowing squad at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after stepping in as a last-minute replacement.
Before this, he was involved in a serious training accident in Portugal that left him worried he wouldn’t walk again, after suffering four fractured vertebrae in his back, two broken ribs and a torn hip flexor muscle.
Charles Elwes – Rower
Age 24 from Newbury, West Berkshire
Rower Charles had his dream crushed when the spread of Covid-19 led to the Olympic Games being postponed.
However her persevered and trained with two former Yale University teammates pushing each other to be the best they can be.
Matilda Horn – Rower
Age 28 from Windsor
Horn fell in love with the sport down at Eton Excelsior Rowing Club where her dad runs the junior programme and continued to row when studying at St Mary’s University.
It was while rowing for the University London Boat Club that she made the move to coxing after injuring her back.
In 2017 she got her big break, coxing the women’s eight to bronze and silver medals at two World Cup events before directing the team to back-to-back silver medals at the 2018 and 2019 European Championships.
Age 24 from Maidenhead
Renowned for her electric turn of pace, the 24-year-old was a talented 400m runner growing up and has translated that speed onto the hockey pitch to pose a constant threat for her country.
The Maidenhead star was part of the team that claimed bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – but will be hellbent on going even better when she descends on Japan this summer.
Oliver Cook – Rower
Age 31 from Windsor
Oliver’s rowing journey began in Windsor at his local rowing club, Eton Excelsior, where his dad initially decided to take up the sport in his early 40s after stumbling across it on a run.
He used to go along with his dad – in what he described as “a form of cheap babysitting” – and he eventually became the club’s very first junior rower as a 12-year-old.
From there he continued to pursue his passion throughout school and university before trialling for the British team at U23 level and first competing for the senior squad in 2012.