Olympic hopefuls prepare for London

WITH the Olympics barely over, four years seems an eternity to wait before it's our turn to proudly lift the torch in the nation's capital.

WITH the Olympics barely over, four years seems an eternity to wait before it's our turn to proudly lift the torch in the nation's capital.

But Suffolk's sporting heroes are more than ready to begin an exciting journey on the road to London 2012.

Suffolk County Council is spearheading two medal-winning projects to celebrate past athletic achievements in the county and look ahead to future successes.

A new project aimed at documenting the Olympic and Paralympic Heritage of Suffolk has already been launched while five aspiring London 2012 Olympic athletes from Suffolk have each received a massive boost by becoming Suffolk's SportsAid scholars.

The scholarships have been established to provide funding for Suffolk's most talented sportsmen and women to assist with the high cost of training and competing at the top level. In return scholars must commit to undertaking ambassadorial duties to inspire young people across the county to take up sport and physical activity.

Laurence Dugdale, James Hayward, Shaun Webb, Matti Mortimore and Joshua Godfrey are the first recipients of a coveted Suffolk County Council SportsAid Scholarship.

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They were presented with their scholarship at the council's Olympic Flag handover event which took place at Endeavour House on Sunday August 24.

16-year-old Joshua Godfrey is a serious contender for a place in the 2012 men's hockey team.

When not attending Ipswich School, he's winning caps for England's Under 16's - 13 to be precise.

He's even bagged six goals representing the country in the European Championships against the likes of Spain, Italy, Belgium, Austria and Ireland.

Joshua said: “I was in Peru on a school trip when I found out I'd got the scholarship. I was quite surprised but really happy.”

Joshua started playing hockey at primary school and has been working hard on his game ever since.

Both his parents were keen players and passed on their enthusiasm to Joshua who trains at least twice a week and regularly travels to training weekends with the England team in Nottingham and Bisham Abbey.

Joshua hopes all the hard work will pay off, saying: “It will be some time before I know if I've made the 2012 team. I have to make the Under 18's team and then hopefully I'll get into the Under 21's - then I'll know if I've made it.”

Despite being just 16, James Hayward is in the Under 18 UK Cadet Class National Sailing Squad and the 2008 Cadet Class UK World Team.

A pupil at Thomas Mills High School, in Framlingham, he is ranked third in England, third in Great Britain and approximately 15th in the world.

Matti Mortimore, 15, from Newbourne, near Woodbridge, is the number one javelin thrower at under 17 level in both England and Great Britain and holds the British Record at under 15 level.

15-year-old Shaun Webb from Brantham is a cross country and middle distance runner. He is ranked 23rd in the world at Under 17 level, first in Great Britain and first in England at Under 15 level and is the Under 15 National Cross Country Champion.

Laurence Dugdale, from Freckenham, near Bury St Edmunds, recently rowed for Great Britain against France after having a highly successful year which saw him set the fastest qualifying time at the Great Britain trials at both under 16 and under 18 level.

Suffolk County Council has a further seven scholarships to be allocated this year and is keen to hear from talented up and coming sportsmen and women who aspire to participate in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Applicants should be in the top three in their age group nationally and must be endorsed by their governing body of sport. Further information is available from Adam Baker, Suffolk Project Manager for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games at adam.baker@acs.suffolkcc.gov.uk, tel. 01473 260821.

Lap of Honour was officially launched at council's Olympic Flag Handover event with the first screening of two short films.

The first film featured the memories of Stanley Cox from Felixstowe who took part in the 1948 London Olympics and the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. The second featured Kevin Curtis of Kesgrave who scooped Gold in the sailing event at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics.

Lap of Honour is a rolling four year programme to document, record and celebrate the achievements of past, present and future Suffolk Olympians, Paralympians and those who have been previously involved in the Olympics or Paralympics in other capacities including coaches, volunteers, officials and spectators.

Anybody with a story to tell should contact project co-ordinator Blue King at enquiries@suffolkartlink.org.uk, tel. 01986 873955.

Ipswich's Northgate Sports Centre is the venue for an event to promote the Paralympic Games in 2012 and organisers are seeking support from the public.

Members of the Ipswich Disability Sport Forum (IDSF) will be joined by Team Ipswich to gather with sportsmen and women with disabilities from across Suffolk for a special Paralympics Flag hand-over ceremony on Wednesday September 17.

They will take part in a procession with the flag around the Northgate track for 2012 meters before everyone joins hands to form an Olympics ring symbol.

Athletes in each ring will wear differently coloured T-shirts and balloons.

Organisers hope athletes with disabilities will come along and take part in the event.