As we continue our countdown to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which is now 28 weeks away, sports reporter SAM MURLEY caught up with a former British Olympian backing the current crop to revel in growing expectations and secure Olympic glory.
TRYING to cope with the pressure of a nation’s expectations is a feeling former Olympic discus thrower Bill Tancred is all too familiar with after stepping out in-front of a 100,000 strong capacity crowd at Mexico in 1968 and then again at the hostile 1972 Games in West Germany.
The young Suffolk-rased athlete had come a long way from the days of throwing a cricket ball from one end of Ipswich football club’s training pitch to the other with his late father, rising through the ranks of Eastern Counties competitions to go on and represent his country, holding a British discus record of 64.32 metres for 25-years, to be ranked greatest British discus thrower of all time.
However, by his own admission Tancred, who was awarded an MBE, felt he wasn’t well enough prepared to cope with the pressure of the Olympics and ultimately failed to challenge for a medal placing on both appearances.
With the clock ticking down to this Summer’s showpiece Games being held in the nation’s capital, Tancred, who took up a role as coach with British athletics board, is fully aware of the added expectation of the home crowd on Britain’s athletes, but backed the current crop of hopefuls to revel in the atmosphere and secure a medal haul.
“I absolutely believe we can win a good number of medals because in a number of sports we are the best in the World so fingers crossed those athletes can live up to expectations and deliver the medals,” he said.
“I was overjoyed at the Olympics because I was representing my country, it was just a wonderful honour to be out there, but with only one gold medal on offer to win there is a lot of expectation.
“I just wish I could have walked out at an Olympics in my home nation because it will so wonderful for those athletes because the fans will lift them up and seeing the union jacks makes you feel about seven-feet tall and very proud to be British so it will be a wonderful experience.
“The only danger is when you mention gold medal there is an added pressure on the athletes but I genuinely believe we have a good number of athletes who have a great chance and if they can deliver on the day then hopefully fingers crossed 2012 will take us back to our glory days in track and field.”
Since London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games was announced as successful on July 6, 2005, many sceptics questioned what impact the Games would have on the nation and whether the ‘leagcy’ left behind would be worth the reported £9.3 Billion of costs. However, Tancred, who won bronze and silver medals in successive Commonwealth Games from 1970 to 1974, and is now chairman of the Suffolk Sport board, allayed those fears as he is adamant the benefits of a successful Games strongly outweigh any negatives.
“Having the Olympics back in our own country will lift the nation, particularly if we do well,” he added.
“We have so much doom and gloom around at the moment, but if we can achieve a successful Games it will outweigh the negatives massively.
“I went to the Olympic park a little while ago and I was completely overawed. There are wonderful facilities, to think the aquatic centre is going to hold 17,000 spectators is wonderful.
“Then you have the velodrome with Chris Hoy and the marvellous cycling team, I just think it will make for a fantastic Games and a wonderful showpiece.
“If you look at cycling from the last Olympics everyone wanted to be a cyclist so it is all about exposure and it is wonderful young people will want to get into the sports.
“There will be more chances for young people in the development stage to get into athletics so not just for the near future but down the line we will have very talented athletes being nurtured.
“Locally we have the Suffolk sport foundation which is getting grants for young talented people and we only need one or two to come through.
“The future is pretty bright and the legacy of the Games will definitely be there.”