Our Olympic Hopefuls | Living North

Our Olympic Hopefuls

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Laura Weightman
Across the world, athletes and sports-lovers are counting down to the opening of the Rio 2016 Olympics on 5 August. We spoke to two of the North East's Olympic hopefuls, Kat Driscoll and Laura Weightman, about their run-up to Rio

Springing for Success

Kat Driscoll, who lives in Houghton-le-Spring, is one of Britain’s best trampoline gymnasts. She finished the 2011 season as world number one and at the London 2012 Olympics missed out on a spot in the final by just one place. She got off to a fantastic start in 2016 by picking up two Bronze medals at the Baku World Cup in Azerbaijan in March and the European Championships in May. Heading into the Olympic season, she’s feeling confident.

How sure are you of securing a spot in the British team to compete in Rio?
I’m in a pretty strong position to take one of the two female trampoline spots. I’ve had a really strong Olympic cycle so far and some great performances at the big competitions. It’s not going to be easy to qualify for this team though, as the British girls are really strong. We are training together every Monday to Friday at our national training centre, so we are seeing our competition training every day. You never really know until your name is announced but I do feel like I’m doing all the right things.

Have you got a routine in mind for Rio?
I have all of my routines set and I have been working on them for a long time now, to make them as high and as good as they can possibly be.

Which countries have you got your eyes on?
The main competitors are China, Canada, Belarus, Russia and us. But it’s an Olympic year and some people really step up to the plate that you weren’t expecting, so I never count anyone out.

Are there any misconceptions about trampolining?
Most people think we just jump around and do a few flips. People don’t know that at our level, we are jumping as high as two double-decker buses end on end and experiencing more G-forces than Formula One drivers. Trampoline is a very explosive, powerful sport where you can feel like you’re defying gravity, but it can also be very graceful and elegant.

What’s your favourite aspect of the sport?
The best part of trampolining is that it’s an all-body work out, so for adults it’s the perfect way to have fun, loose weight and get fit at the same time. 

Do you feel supported by fans in the North East?
The North East trampoline community has been so supportive of me and my sport and have really got behind me at every stage. The support makes such a difference, especially if you are struggling as they can really help pick you up. I would love to set up a full-time dedicated trampoline facility once I’ve retired from competitive trampoline, to offer the kids of the North East the best possible chance to follow in my footsteps.

What drives you?
I just try to be better than I was the day before. And on a large scale, missing out on the final in London 2012 is what drives me – I don’t want to be in that position ever again. My current goal is to make the final at the Olympic Games. I’ve given everything I have and I am so proud to have achieved so much already.

 

Chasing Medals

Laura Weightman, a 24-year-old 1,500m runner from Lesbury, Northumberland, is hoping to clinch her spot on the GB team for the Rio Olympics. Coached by former 1,500m world record holder Steve Cram, she reached the final of the London 2012 Olympics and won a Silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. She has her sights set on a podium spot in Rio.

How certain are you about your spot for Rio?
A top two finish in the British Championships will give me automatic Olympic selection. It will be a tough race as we have a number of good 1,500m runners but I am confident that I can make the team for Rio. It will be an honour to aim to make my second Olympic games. 

Is the competition in 1,500m racing tough?
It’s a very strong event. There are a number of girls running very fast times, under four minutes. Hopefully I can get under four minutes soon. My best is currently 4.00.17, so I’m nearly there. The exciting thing about the race is that anything can happen, it’s a fast, tactical race where you need speed and strength to win. 

How do you train for the big races?
I spend a number of weeks a year at altitude training. I have been going to Kenya every January for four to five weeks since 2012. It’s a fantastic place for a training camp, with miles of undulating dirt trails. It’s a very simple way of life: you eat, sleep and train.  

What are the training facilities like in the North East?
I am very lucky that I grew up in Northumberland. It’s a beautiful county with amazing places to train. Living in the little village of Lesbury, I was less than a mile run from the beach where I could run for miles. I always look forward to returning home when I can and getting the chance to do some of my favourite runs. When I have track training sessions, I love going to Hexham. They have a fantastic sports centre there with a brilliant track. 

Have sports fans in the region taken you to heart?
I have fantastic support from everyone in the North East. Everyone gets behind you and really wants one of their own to do well. For the Olympics back in 2012, my local town had banners, photos and messages of support everywhere. 

How do you mentally prepare before a race?
Mental preparation for a major race is just as important as the physical preparation. The days and moments before a race I am physically in shape, and the key then is to be mentally prepared. I try to focus on my plan for the race and ignore everything going on around me.

You suffered a serious concussion after falling at the finish line of the World Championships heat in Beijing last summer. Are you confident in your recovery?
Beijing was a major disappointment for me. I was in the best shape of my life and in a split second that all changed. It is very difficult to explain the physical and emotional effect something like that has. It took a long time to recover, but I have come into 2016 with a fire inside me to make sure I show the world what I couldn’t in 2015. I do believe that it has only made me stronger. 

What’s your goal?
My ultimate goal is to stand on the podium at the World Championships or the Olympic Games, representing my country, having won a medal. I work hard every day to achieve this, pushing my body to the limits. Hopefully one day, the hard work will pay off. 

Published in: July 2016

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