Berkshire’s Olympic giants going for gold
Addicted to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? With Maidenhead's Tom Dean winning gold, meet your local Team GB stars medal hunting in Japan.
With Wimbledon and Euros out of the way, our Olympic giants have 17 days to go for gold – and I’m obsessed. Piers Morgan claims no one cares about the Olympics. But I do. All those tales of sacrifice, the sobs on the podium, that wonderful feeling of being British and the ‘oh-my-god-we’re-actually-winning medals’ reactions. I love the tears of joy as Team GB’s superstars bite their gold medals – yes, you Adam Peaty and Tom Daley. But what I love more is the new talent coming through and the that loads of them are homegrown in Berkshire.
If you weren’t awake at 3am to see Maidenhead’s Tom Dean win 200m Freestyle on the BBC, or attending his mum’s late night garden party, then hopefully you will have caught a glimpse of his phenomenal swim. Just awesome. The good news is that we’ve got more to come. Meet your local Team GB stars…
Tom Dean, 21, Maidenhead
Swimming – 200m Freestyle
Tom nearly didn’t make it to Tokyo 2020 when he contracted coronavirus for the second time in January – a setback mentally and physically. But at 3am on Tue 27 July the Maidenhead swimmer won gold in the 200m Freestyle. About 70 of Tom’s family, former coaches and friends gathered in his mum’s garden in Maidenhead to watch the race in the early hours, with a video of their celebrations going viral. The swimmer first came onto the scene in 2018, bagging himself a medal at the European Championships.
Next race: Wed 28 Jul at 4.28am
Helen Glover MBE, 35, Cookham
Rowing – Women’s Pairs
It has been the mother of all comebacks. Double Olympic champion Helen Glover is the first Team GB rower to compete at an Olympics after having children. If that’s not enough of a wow statement. The fact, she only started training during lockdown a few weeks after giving birth to twins should see your jaw drop to the floor. But after a gruelling training schedule that had to fit in around her three babies, she made it to Tokyo. Now she’s going for gold alongside Polly Swann in the Women’s Pairs. There was no time to think about her semi final place, Helen jumped out of the boat and whizzed off to celebrate son Logan’s birthday.
Next race: Wed 28 July. The final is Thu 29 July.
Matilda Horn, 28, Windsor
Rowing – Women’s Eights, Cox
Matilda is Team GB’s rowing pocket rocket as cox of the Women’s Eights. She will be steering from the helm of the boat, keeping the Team GB Rowing Team on the straight and narrow as they tackle the Tokyo waters. Raised in Windsor, she turned to coxing after injuring her back and made her big break at the World Cup in 2017. Matilda 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. Having finished fourth in their heat, the team will race in the Repechage to try and earn their place in Saturday’s final.
Next race: Repechage, Wed 28 Jul. The final is Sat 30 Jul.
Jack Beaumont, 27, Maidenhead
Rowing – Men’s Quadruple Skulls
In 2015 Jack Beaumont didn’t think he would walk again, let alone compete at an Olympics. But this Maidenhead rowing giant fought his way back to fitness. During an horrific training accident, Jack fractured four vertebrae in his back, two broken ribs and a torn hip flexor muscle. After just four months out of the boat, he only narrowly missed selection for Rio in 2016, only to jet out to Brazil four days before the Games as a last-minute replacement. Now Jack, Angus Groom, Thomas Barras and Harry Leask have their sights set on a medal at Tokyo 2020.
Next race: Finals Wed 28 July
Matt Rossiter, 31, Newbury
Rowing – Coxless Fours
At London 2012 Matt was selling Olympic merch at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Nine years later, he’s following in then footsteps of Matthew Pincent, Steve Redgrave and James Cracknell at Tokyo 2020 in the Men’s Coxless Fours. Matt fell in love with rowing at Abingdon School, but his road to the Olympics has not been smooth. A debilitating back problem threatened to impede his path to the Games after a prodigious junior career. He returned to the sport in 2016 and now calls the shots in the four, alongside Ollie Cook, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie.
Next race: Finals Wed 28 July
Oliver Cook, 31, Windsor
Rowing – Coxless Fours
This Blonde Bombshell’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. Oliver used to tag along as “a form of cheap babysitting” – and he eventually became the club’s first junior rower at the age of 12. He just missed out on a place at Rio 2016, but bounced back and is now looking to continue the historic success of the men’s four. The team go into the final as favourites, so scream at your TV sets in the small hours to help the win gold.
Next race: Finals Wed 28 July
Charlie Elwes, 24, Newbury
Rowing – Men’s Eights
Row, row, row your boat and let that six pack ripple in your Team GB Lycra. Originally from Newbury, Charlie is medal hunting at Tokyo 2020 in the Men’s Eights. As a member of Henley’s prestigious Leander Club, which sits of the very edge of Berkshire, he’s aiming to add another medal to the club’s staggering collection following on from his gold medal at the European Championships this year.
Next race: Repechage, Wed 28 July. Final Fri 30 July.
Ellie Rayer, 24, Maidenhead
Wanna know how to make it to the Olympics, become head girl at Claire’s Court school in Maidenhead. OK, so it’s going to take more than that. Maidenhead’s Ellie Rayer is a Team GB Hockey star playing midfield or forward. She’s lightening fast, which is a nightmare for opposition teams but useful to have in Team GB’s arsenal when you’re defending Olympic gold.
Next match: Team GB vs India, Wed 28 July
Fran Kirby, 28, Reading
Considered one of the best attackers in the world, Fran was bending it like Beckham from a young age. She grew up in Reading, joined Reading FC Academy at the age of seven and played for them until 2015, when she joined Chelsea. But life off the pitch wasn’t as peachy as it was on it. At just 14 Fran’s mum Denise died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage. Suffering from depression she quit football. What followed was an almighty comeback – making her international debut in 2014 and was part of England’s run to the semi-finals in 2019. Kirby contracted pericarditis in late 2019 but was back to her best and named Women’s Super League player of the season as Chelsea retained their league title in 2021.
Next match: Quarter finals, Team GB vs Australia, Fri 30 July.
Taylor Campbell, 25, Slough
Athletics – Hammer
You spin me right round, baby right round. Taylor Campbell is the UK’s fifth all-time greatest hammer thrower. No, I can’t name the other either. But that’s not going to stop us cheering on his Olympic effort when the games moves on to track and field. Like a Greek God, this Slough heavyweight will strut into his cage and sling is ball with hopes of claiming a podium spot. During lockdown, Campbell 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.
Competing: Wed 4 Aug
Amber Hill, 23, Windsor
Shooting – Skeet
From high hopes to heartbreak. Sharp shooting Amber Hill was hotly tipped for a gold medal going into Tokyo 2020 as World No1 in the Skeet (basically, fast clay shooting). But when you host a postponed games in a global pandemic, the odds of testing positive for Covid are stacked against you. Poor Amber didn’t even make it onto the plane. The 23-year-old from Windsor will now set her sights on Paris 2024. Amber has been shooting since she was 10, became the youngest ever Skeet World Cup gold medallist at 15, was named 2013 Young Sports Personality of the Year and was the youngest member of Team GB shooting squad at Rio 2016. Watch out Paris, Amber’s got unfinished business.
Competing: Withdrew after a positive Covid test.