Tokyo Paralympics 2020: Portsmouth athletes Olivia Breen, Lorraine Lambert, Lauren Steadman, Micky Yule and Dave Henson get ready as Games start

ATHLETES from the area are gearing up for the pinnacle of their careers as the postponed Paralympic Games 2020 finally gets underway.

By Steve Deeks
Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 4:55 am

Portsmouth boasts competitors in the form of shooter Lorraine Lambert, sprinter and long jumper Olivia Breen and triathlete Lauren Steadman.

Powerlifter Micky Yule, of Park Gate, and sprinter Dave Henson, of Whiteley, will also be carrying the torch for the region.

In a period of unprecedented change, fear and uncertainty, it has been a challenge for the athletes. But now they cannot wait for the action to start.

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Olivia Breen. Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images

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Milton-based shooter Lorraine, 48, said she was ‘looking forward’ to competing whilst admitting she was ‘a bit nervous’ as she prepared to do battle.

‘I’ve done a lot of training at home as everything was shut down,’ she said. ‘I’ve had to adapt my training and have done stuff in my garden and online.

‘I started my preparations last August when on a range in Wales and was there one week a month to get back into it.

Lorraine Lambert is a Team GB Paralympian for Shooting at Tokyo. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘Then there was another lockdown which hampered things again. But you can only do what you can do.’

As lockdown has eased this year, Lorraine has been back regularly at her local club, Havant Rifle and Pistol Club, before jetting off to Gibraltar to train. ‘It was fantastic to go there,’ she said. ‘Normally we would go to other countries. We were meant to go out to Peru but that was on the red list.’

Lorraine has also visited schools during the build-up to the games and has helped raise a few thousands pounds for the NHS Together Charity by taking on the Tokyo Challenge of cycling, walking and swimming the 16,000 miles distance of London to Tokyo and back again.

Now the sharp-shooter hopes she can bring home a medal. ‘I hope I can bring home something big and shiny,’ she said. ‘I will do everything I can.

Paralympian Lauren Steadman

‘Normally you can gauge where you fall going into the competition which we don’t have this time (due to the pandemic).

‘It’s a shame fans aren’t allowed out in Tokyo but Channel 4 has been amazing by doubling the amount of hours they will show on TV so everyone can watch it who can’t be there.’

Meanwhile Olivia, 25, who has trained at Portsmouth Athletics Club since she was a youngster, was raring to go.

She said: ‘It’s great to be out here. It’s a real honour. But it is very strange with Covid and all the protocols.

Micky Yule Picture: Roger Keller

‘It’s been a strange 18 months but it is just amazing the games are now happening.

‘Last year I didn’t see my coach for six months which was weird and I moved home to be with my family (in Liphook) when I lived in Loughborough.

‘I didn’t know what was happening so I just thought let’s keep training and was very lucky to have a track near the house that no one was using. It’s paid off.

‘I’ve had a good season and broke the sub 13 second barrier and I’m confident the five metres (long jump) will come in Tokyo when I need it the most.

‘I’m feeling really good and the training is going really well and it’s just about keeping everything healthy for the next few days now.

‘I feel like I’ve matured a lot and grown as an athlete and got stronger so I feel like these games will put me in a really good place.

Dave Henson Picture: Roger Keller

‘Also, 25 years of age is a good age for an athlete. You keep learning and growing. Hopefully everything will come together in Tokyo.’

Olivia’s mum, Helen Breen, said they were ‘very proud’ of her and confident she will do well despite an uncertain preparation for the games due to the pandemic.

‘The last 18 months have been strange. There has been a lot of uncertainty with talk of the games being cancelled but she has dealt with it well,’ Helen said.

‘Livvy came and stayed with us in Liphook and trained at a nearby track that only one other person - another British athlete - was using after finding a hole in a fence.

‘She’s been able to work harder in the gym and is now stronger than before.

‘She’s had a few niggles but has had a good preparation and got her new personal best with a sub 13-second run in the 100 metres.

‘She’s feeling positive and in a good mindset and just needs to get over the jet lag.

‘We’re very proud of her. This is her third Paralympics and is very different to the previous games when she was 16 and 20 and there was no pressure on her. Whereas now this is her life and there is more at stake.’

Paul Newton, Portsmouth Athletics Club’s membership secretary and treasurer, said: ‘We’re very proud of her. We didn’t have any representatives at the Olympics so it is good to have Olivia in the Paralympics.

‘If she performs to her best she could bring home a medal. It’s all on the day.

‘Olivia has grown up with us through the system and has been with us for a long time.

‘We expected her to be selected so that was not a surprise. We clearly hope she performs well.

‘It will be a little stranger with no spectators but I don’t think she will be fazed by that. She has an old head on young shoulders.’

Meanwhile, former University of Portsmouth student and triathlete Lauren, 28, will be hoping for more success after securing a silver at the Rio games in 2016. Lauren appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2018 and said she wanted to help inspire people, whether able-bodied or disabled, to try new things.

Brenda Tournier, associate director of Alumni and Advancement, said: ‘Lauren Steadman exemplifies just why we, the University of Portsmouth, are so proud of our graduates.

‘She reflects the hopes we have for their futures, including the impact they will have in their professions, their communities and on the world. Whilst their success is really all down to them, we work very hard to ensure their time with us makes a difference.

‘Clearly, Lauren is exceptional and we wish her all the very best for the Paralympics. Win or lose, she is a champion - to us and to the UK. Go Lauren. Go Team GB.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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