Going for gold: meet the young stars of the Tokyo Olympic Games

By Judy Cogan | 29 Jun 2021 | Sport

As we prepare for the launch of the Olympic Games, Tempus meets the new generation of young British hopefuls ready to take Tokyo by storm.

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When the Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed by a year by the Covid-19 pandemic, the news came as a hammer blow to all the athletes training hard for the event.

Now, as I write this, we are just month away from the opening ceremony the torch relay has begun and the athletes are limbering up to compete.

With heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, and runners Laura Muir and Sir Mo Farah, Britain has plenty of gold medal contenders. But the extra time has given some young hopefuls a new opportunity to join Team GB and set the podium in their sights.

Allow us to introduce you to the next gen Olympic stars poised to make an impact...

NAOMI OGBETA | TRIPLE JUMP

She may only be 22 years old but Naomi Ogbeta has already won seven national titles as a triple jumper and her star is certainly on the rise.

When the first lockdown last year wreaked havoc on her tightly tuned training regime of four to six sessions a week Ogbeta adapted quickly working out in an empty gym and at home to keep up her fitness levels. She also started seeing a sports psychologist to help hone her biggest Olympic goal: to break a world record.

To do this in Tokyo she’ll have to take on world’s No.1 triple jumper Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela.

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AMY HUNT | SPRINTER

Not long after her 17th birthday, British sprinter Amy Hunt smashed the world under-18s record for the 200m and broke Dina Asher-Smith’s UK under-20s record for the same distance.

She ran so fast that her spikes were smouldering as she crossed the finish line. Hunt is also reigning European junior champion and, in 2020, won the British senior 60m crown.

Still only 18, she is juggling sprint training with an English degree at Cambridge University.

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JAKE WIGHTMAN | 1,500m RUN

In 2018 Wightman became the first Briton to run below 1:45 for 800m and in the 2020 Diamond League in Monaco he broke the Scottish record for the 1,500m.

His achievements come down largely to hard-work, but also his genes. Wightman’s mother Susan (née Tooby) was a marathon runner as was his father, Geoff who is now his coach.

As the “Tooby twins”, Wightman’s mother and her sister, Angela, were two of the best British runners of the 1980s. Coincidentally, Wightman also has a twin brother, called Sam.

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JAZMIN SAWYERS | LONG JUMP

Did you know the long jump event was actually Sawyer’s plan B?

As an athlete ranked seventh in the world for the sport in 2020 it’s hard to believe, but she has also competed as a bobsledder and a heptathlete.

Further to that in 2017 the Stokeborn athlete was a contestant on The Voice and coached by Will.i.am before losing a sing-off to a rival contestant.

At least she will be well placed to sing the national anthem if she unleashes a winning jump in Tokyo.

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FREYA ANDERSON | SWIMMING

Team GB’s most promising swimming star is allergic to chlorine and scared of the sea.

“Certain chlorines agitate my skin,” Anderson recently told Sportsmail. “In certain pools it flares up and is really painful, not ideal for a swimmer.”

Not ideal, but it hasn’t stopped the freestyler from finishing fourth in her senior European debut in Glasgow in 2018. She followed that up last year with a World Championship relay bronze.

Now she is ready to represent Britain at the Tokyo Olympics and the 20-year-old hopes to emulate the success of her idol Rebecca Adlington, who, aged 19, won 400m and 800m freestyle gold medals at Beijing 2008

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ANDREW POZZI | HURDLES

This 110m hurdles hopeful was unbeaten during the indoor season before COVID-19 played havoc with summer events last year. But he still enjoyed a superb 2020.

The 28-year-old, who lives in Italy, finished last year with the ranking of second in the world. He is a solid candidate for an Olympic podium place and is set to compete on the same days in Tokyo as his girlfriend heptathlon star Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

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ALEX YEE | TRIATHLON

The Brownlee brothers Alastair and Jonny, Britain’s reigning triathlon champions, are likely to have their 23-year-old triathlon team-mate Alex Yee breathing heavily down their necks in Tokyo.

Yee took home gold at the 2019 Accenture World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series in Nottingham. But it was his silver medal in the World Triathlon Series race in Abu Dhabi the same year that announced his arrival from the junior ranks.

The Londoner is being tipped as a worthy successor to his decorated team-mates.

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JACK CARLIN | CYCLING

It took a serious football injury, fracturing both his ankles, for Carlin to take up cycling as part of his recovery.

He signed up to The Glasgow Riders and now it’s turned into a passion that’s taking him to the Olympic Games.

The 22-year-old has been sitting on the shoulder of Jason Kenny for some time, and the extra months he’s gained could prove crucial in Carlin’s quest to usurp his illustrious 32-year-old rival in Tokyo.

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CAROLINE DUBOIS | BOXING

Caroline DuBois is a junior world and Olympic boxing champion who squeezed into the senior GB Boxing squad just in time to make the Tokyo 2020 qualifiers.

The unbeaten 20-year-old has benefited from an extra year of development and is going to Tokyo as the lightweight favourite. Dubois credits her progress to her father, Dave, who told his daughter to pretend to be a boy called Colin when she attended her first session at Repton Boxing Club in London’s Bethnal Green.

Her inspirations include Irish boxing pro Katie Taylor.

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JEMMA REEKIE | 800m RUN

With the games in sight, Jemma Reekie shaved a remarkable four seconds off her personal best when she won an 800m race in Glasgow in February this year, beating Laura Muir in the process.

The 22-year-old Scot has had impressive early success, but has proved it wasn’t beginners luck by becoming ranked No2 in the world over 800m, behind Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya.

It’s all there for the taking in Tokyo.

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PHOTO CREDITS British Athletics Collection/Getty Images; SLT; SWPix; First Access Sports