Portsmouth area athletes wished good luck as they get ready for pinnacle of careers at Tokyo Olympic Games
THEY are carrying the Olympic torch for the region, with the community getting behind our hopefuls to say: ‘Good luck. Bring us home a medal.’
Portsmouth’s BMX freestyle rider Declan Brooks, Fareham rowing ace Rebecca Muzerie, Hayling Island sailor Eilidh McIntyre and hockey women’s keeper Maddie Hinch, originally from Hill Head, are flying the flag for Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics.
As a nation cheers on the Olympic hopefuls, those who know them best and helped shape their careers believe they can deliver success.
Declan, 25, is in the proud position of being the first male to represent the new Olympic sport BMX freestyle park at the games.
His parents were bursting with pride as he looks forward to starting his challenge on July 31.
Lee Brooks, Declan’s ‘proud’ dad, said: ‘On behalf of myself and our family we wish him all the very best. He deserves to be where he is today through hard work and dedication.
‘We believe he has the correct mindset to go all the way. Winning a gold medal? Why not. Anyone can win it on the day, it’s one of those sorts of sports.
‘We are extremely proud of him, especially to be where he is now when his progress was not as he would have wanted at times due to injury.
‘I would love it for him to win and so would everyone locally and across the country. Go Brooksie.’
Declan’s mum Kelly Pryer added: ‘Good luck Declan, we are very proud of you. Now go bring back a medal for us.’
Meanwhile Fareham rower Rebecca, 31, was selected in Team GB’s women’s eight team and will compete on Sunday for the first time.
She made her senior world debut for Great Britain in 2017 as one half of the women’s pair, finishing sixth at the Rowing World Cup in Poznan, and has since represented Great Britain at World and European Championships.
Rebecca went to Crofton School, Stubbington, and is still remembered by some staff there.
Amanda Knight, senior assistant headteacher, said: ‘We are always very proud when we have a former student who goes on to achieve their ultimate aim in representing Great Britain.
‘Everyone, including teachers and staff, wish her the best of luck in her Tokyo adventure and we all hope she brings back a medal. We are all very excited.’
England’s hockey team kick-off against Germany on Sunday with former St Jude’s School pupil Maddie between the sticks.
The 32-year-old captured British hearts at Rio 2016 as her penalty shoot-out heroics propelled the nation to glory.
Maddie’s mum Catherine, who lives in West Chiltington, West Sussex, said: ‘We wish all the athletes the best of luck in what has been a difficult couple of years.
‘We are very proud of her - it’s not easy being an athlete at the top level with all the demands. It’s very stressful at times.
‘It’s been a difficult time for the hockey team with all the injuries they have had. Hopefully they can bring back a medal to reflect all their hard work and perseverance.
‘We're all behind them and wish them the best.’
Sailor Eilidh, 27, will perform on July 28 in the 470 class with Hannah Mills after the pair went on to claim silver at the 2017 World Championships, before scooping top prize in Enoshima in 2019.
Emma Toman, of Hayling Island Sailing Club, where Eilidh grew up sailing, said: ‘Everyone at the club is extremely proud of Eilidh who with her sailing partner Hannah Mills have a real chance of a medal.
‘We are very excited and will be supporting her all the way, and look forward to hearing all about it when she returns from Tokyo. Eilidh has been a life long member of the club, starting out in our youth program in an Optimist dinghy.’
The Olympians themselves cannot wait to get going for the pinnacle of their careers.
Declan said: ‘It honestly means everything to me. I am in a crazy position where I am the first male to represent BMX freestyle which is a new sport at the Olympic Games. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
‘But in all honesty I’m just super excited to get out there and get going now.’
He scooped European bronze in 2019 and hopes the sport’s visibility in Japan can encourage kids far and wide to channel their creativity on a bike.
Brooks, one of over 1,000 athletes on the UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, said: ‘I just hope it drives the participation of young kids and it gives them something to aspire to.
‘I hope it gives them role models because at the moment, no one really knows what we do or how we do it and it might just shine a light on it.
‘It means that we can show off to these kids and then hopefully one day, they’ll want to do the same as what we did.’
Declan is also urging the nation to come together by taking part in Game On which asks the public to set themselves a challenge to complete in the 17 days of the games to fundraise for the British Red Cross.
Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, said: ’With family and friends unable to travel with them to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the restriction on spectators, it’s more important than ever that we as a nation get behind Team GB athletes from home soil.’
Meanwhile Rebecca said the female rowers had formed a strong bond as they bid to win gold.
‘I’ve been through a lot with these girls and it’s just really nice that you’ve got people who’ve been through the highs and lows with you,’ she said.
‘That’s the basis of friendship – I know these girls will be there when you’re having a great day but also when you’re having a bad day, and that puts you in a good place together.
‘It’s been a really tough few months for us and it’s taken a while to get going, but now we’re really building relationships, understanding each other and beginning to find out what works for us.
‘We’ve had a lot of time to work and focus on ourselves. The excitement is really starting to build now.’
Maddie said being part of the victorious hockey team in 2016 was something she was proud of - but now wants to write a new chapter.
‘I look back on 2016 and it really gives me a smile on my face,’ she said.
‘It was positive and we wrote a real history with that group – but it’s a different group now. It’s important that we try and write our own history with this group and write our own story again.
‘We can’t go and try and replicate what that team in Rio did – we need to go out with our own team and really give an account of ourselves.
‘I’m just looking forward to seeing what this younger group can do – we’re going out with a bit of a target on our backs, but we’re proud to do so and we’re going to defend our title.’
Eilidh, speaking to The News earlier in the year, said she was just glad the Olympics were going ahead. ‘The whole event is not going to be what we’re used to it being (with no fans), but that doesn’t mean it’s not an Olympics, it’s still the Olympic Games,’ she said.
‘It still means the same amount, it’s just going to look really different.
'When you’ve wanted something for so long and it gets threatened to be taken away, you don’t care what form it comes in, you’re just happy and grateful it’s there in the form it is.'