This summer’s Olympic Games has inspired a new
generation of budding young sports stars. But, as
SARAH FOSTER finds out, getting to the top takes
dedication and commitment – from the whole family.
When most lads his age are still blissfully tucked up under their duvets, Oliver Jermy will have already put in two hours of training in the pool.
The talented swimmer rises at 5am most days and ploughs his way through lap after lap of a tough training regime before putting in the hours at school.
And when the day is done, Oliver will pull his trunks back on and dive in once more.
But it’s a routine that Oliver insists he doesn’t have a problem with because he knows that if he’s to progress in the sport, sacrifices will have to be made.
‘It’s all right because I enjoy it,’ explains Oliver, from Lovedean.
‘I do sometimes get tired but with every sport it’s about pushing through that.
‘Swimming is a competitive sport. You either take it all, or you don’t do any of it.’
It was Oliver’s determination and talent that brought him to the attention of Havant photographer Aaron Bennett. He set out to showcase unseen local sporting talent and Oliver’s portrait is now one of six to have gone on display at Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal.
They include gymnast Alexia Welsh, pictured on page one of The News today.
The Sports Future exhibition reveals the determination and dedication it takes to pursue a life in competitive sport and the stories behind the stunning photos show just how hard youngsters like Oliver have to work.
The Horndean Technology College pupil will sit his GCSEs next year and must juggle school work with training. He’s a backstroke specialist and trains for 20 hours a week with Havant and Waterlooville Swimming Club.
It’s a full-on commitment – and not just for Oliver. His parents Amanda and Paul are there to take him to training sessions and competitions.
‘My husband takes him in the mornings and I go along and support him,’ says Amanda.
‘We’ve got a good support group with the other parents but my daughter, Emily, also swims for the club so we do tend to spend our whole weekends at the swimming pool.’
The family have already seen their commitment start to pay off though as Oliver’s doing well in competitions and his times keep getting quicker and quicker.
Earlier this year he swam in a big national championship in Sheffield and recorded his fastest time for his 200 metre back stroke, making him the best in the country for under-16s.
Although he’s been swimming since he was four, Oliver’s only been doing it competitively for around three years so the talent he has is clearly there for all to see.
Like many young sports stars of the future, the London 2012 Olympic Games proved essential viewing for Oliver.
While he’s coy about his chances of making it all the way to the top, he’s clear a career as a professional sportsman is what he’s aiming for.
‘I want to see how far I can take it,’ he adds.
‘I would like to try and aim for a scholarship in America. I’d like to do it professionally but it’s just a question of seeing how far I can go.’
Amanda – who admits she finds it nerve-racking to watch her boy swim in competitions – adds: ‘Oliver puts a lot of hard work in and doesn’t get blase about it.
‘He took an avid interest in the Olympics and there is an opportunity there for him if he wants to do it. He’s certainly got the talent and the determination so who knows what will happen.’
It’s also a case of wait and see for 17-year-old Rowan Miller and his family at the moment.
The young motorcycle rider also stars alongside Oliver in the photographic exhibition and is trying to make a name for himself in the ultra-competitive world of motorcycle racing.
In his first year of racing, Rowan got used to riding at the front of the field, regularly winning races and beating off stiff competition from much older competitors. In fact, in his first ever race at the age of eight, he finished an impressive fourth.
‘I’d always liked the look of motocross and wanted to have a go,’ says Rowan, from Purbrook.
‘At first I just started our riding around a field to get used to it but then I started racing and really enjoyed it.’
Dad Gary remembers how Rowan got on his first push bike when he was four and after just a few hours of practice began begging to have the stabilisers removed.
So the lad’s clearly got plenty of natural talent – but if he wants to make it to Moto GP, he’ll need a lot more than a track record of winning.
Racing has now finished for the year and Rowan, who is also studying for his A-levels at South Downs College, doesn’t know what will happen in 2013.
It costs the family around £15,000 a year to run Rowan’s 650cc bike and travel across the country to compete. And Gary admits he has two jobs – the day job to pay the bills and the role he plays at weekends acting as Rowan’s mechanic, driver and support team.
Getting to the top will be tough and both Rowan and Gary know that they’ll need a lot of luck on their side.
As a result, Gary and wife Amanda have always stressed the importance of doing well at school and making sure Rowan hasn’t sacrificed his grades for the sake of his sporting dream.
‘My dad’s always said that if my school grades go down he’ll restrict my riding,’ adds Rowan.
‘But it’s never been a problem. He’s always said he didn’t want my school work to suffer.’
While Rowan continues to show commitment and progression, Gary’s happy to support him.
‘If Rowan wasn’t making progress I’d treat it far more as a hobby,’ he explains. But because I believe he’s got a talent and he’s pretty much proven it with his race results, I’m prepared to go that little bit further.’
Twelve-year-old Oscar Bird, from Hayling Island, only started fencing in March – but he’s already achieved more in seven months than others achieve in years.
The chatty Portsmouth Grammar School pupil clearly loves his sport and bubbles over with enthusiasm when talking about what training is like. He was due to take part in his first big competition at the weekend and already has his eye on a place at the 2020 Olympics.
‘I understand that it would be four years of really hard training,’ he adds.
Oscar’s family was delighted to see him chosen to pose for Aaron’s camera and mum Kris adds: ‘We’re pleased that he’s found a sport that he really enjoys.
‘His older sister Gemma is in the British sailing squad, so he’s seen how if you put in lots of hard work you can progress on to great things.’
The Sports Future exhibition celebrates the talent of young sports stars from the Portsmouth area.
Aaron Bennett captured six young people – aged between nine and 16 – in stunning portraits.
The young sports stars were nominated by their coaches and teachers after Aaron contacted local sports clubs.
His aim was to showcase our sporting talent and says: ‘The exhibition is about giving exposure to the hard work and determination that is often overlooked. It is not just about talent, these kids work solidly to get where they are today.’
The exhibition will be running until Saturday October 27 in the New Theatre Royal dress circle bar from Monday until Friday from 10am – 2pm. Entry is free.