Kent athletes going for Gold

PUBLISHED: 17:54 21 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:12 20 February 2013

Kent athletes going for Gold

Kent athletes going for Gold

With London 2012 fast approaching, Kent Life speaks to athletes and para-athletes with a Kent connection who will looking to perform on the world's largest sporting stage at this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games

Going for Gold

With London 2012 fast approaching, Kent Life speaks to athletes and para-athletes with a Kent connection who will looking to perform on the worlds largest sporting stage at this summers Olympic and Paralympic Games

Name: Kat Driscoll

Born: 13 March 1986

Sport: Trampoline

Kent connection: Born in Chatham

Since trampolining was introduced as an Olympic sport at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Great Britain has yet to see one of its competitors make the finals of the event, let alone win a medal. That disappointing run of form will hopefully home to an end at London 2012 however, when current world number one Kat Driscoll takes to the trampoline at the O2, or North Greenwich Arena as it will be known during the Games.

The thought of competing and having the whole country behind you is one hell of a prospect, says Kat, who was brought up in Walderslade in Chatham. Preparations for the Games have been going really well and Ive had the best season of my career so far, so hopefully Im in good shape to do well if Im selected.

Kats trampolining prowess has seen her compete at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in 2001 and she also travelled to the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a member of the 2012 Ambition Programme - a group of select athletes who were selected to go to China to gain experience ahead of hopefully being selected to compete at this summers Games.

The 25-year-old has achieved much in her career and it all stems from a love of trampolining which dates back to her Kent childhood.

During the school holidays me and my two brothers used to spend lots of time at Lordswood Leisure Centre in Chatham doing the activity weeks that were on offer. Thats where I got my first experience of a trampoline and it wasnt long after that I joined a local trampoline club. It all went crazy from there!

Name: Will Bayley

Born: 17 January 1988

Sport: Para Table Tennis

Kent connection: Wills home village is Groombridge, near Tunbridge Wells

Another current world number one with links to Kent is para table tennis star Will Bayley. The 23-year-old was born in Poole, Dorset but has spent most of his life living in Groombridge. He is in brilliant shape ahead of the Paralympics, having beaten Ukrainian Mikhaylo Popov at the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Croatia in November 2011 to head the mens class 7 singles world rankings.

Winning the European Championships last year was definitely my biggest sporting achievement to date and it puts me into a strong position going into the Paralympics, says Will.

Will suffers from a rare congenital disorder called arthogryposis which affects all four of his limbs. His feet were splinted from birth and he had to undergo surgery aged just three months to correct this. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma aged seven but overcame the condition after a six-month course of chemotherapy.

Amazingly, considering everything he went through as a child, Will competed in the 2008 Paralympics and it took the world number one at the time to knock him out of the tournament. I learnt a lot competing in Beijing and I think it will hold me in good stead this year, he says.

Will lives in Sheffield these days for training purposes, but when he has the luxury of a spare weekend loves nothing more than a trip back to Kent. I enjoy doing a bit of shopping along the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells and eating out there, says Will.

Im a bit addicted to coffee, so having a nice latte in a good cafe in Kent is always a nice way to pass the time and relax. Theres also a lovely Thai restaurant in the town called The Sucheera, which Id recommend.

Name: Guy Williams

Born: 11 July 1971

Sport: Showjumping

Kent connection: Born in Ashford and lives in Stelling Minnis

Equestrian events take showjumper Guy Williams all over the world, but there is nowhere he loves to spend time more than his home county of Kent.

I spend a lot of time away from Kent but when I am here I like to pop to my local pubs, the Rose and Crown or the Hop Pocket, he says. On the rare occasion I get a spare weekend in Kent I like to spend it with my two children - my daughter who is five and my son who is two - and take them somewhere like the Hop Farm Family Park in Tonbridge.

A running theme for all the athletes we have featured in our Olympic Spirit feature is that the interest in their chosen sport began at an early age. That is certainly the case for Guy.

I started riding horses when I was very small, maybe about five or six and later started taking part in gymkhanas, he says. My parents also rode horses at an amateur level so I had ponies when I was younger and did all the local shows. My first pony was called Pudding, a black 14/2 pony and we won a lot of shows in the area. Since then I have had thousands of horses.

The Hickstead Derby winner is hoping to land a medal at the Games and will hope both him and his current horse, Depardieu, will be in good form.

I get attached to my good horses, and Ive had two really good ones recently. I have just sold one of them so I can concentrate on Depardieu.

Name: Dan Ritchie

Born: 6 January 1987

Sport: Rowing, Mens Eight

Kent connection: Born and lives in Herne Bay

Since the introduction of rowing at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, only the former East Germany and the United States have won more Olympic medals in the sport than Great Britain. Team GB won more medals at rowing competitions at the last Games than any other country (two gold, two silver and two bronze at Beijing in 2008), so the pressure will be on Great Britains rowers to have another golden year in 2012, as Herne Bays Dan Ritchie knows only too well.

Pressure and expectation is all part of being part of Great Britains rowing team, says Dan. This country has a tradition of producing world class rowers and of course, winning lots of Olympic medals. The main pressure comes from ourselves, however we are thinking about that gold medal and we will be disappointed if we dont win it.

While Dans mind is firmly on competition in a boat nowadays, his first sporting aspiration was to compete for Team GB as a swimmer.

I represented Great Britain as a youngster and I regularly went to the swimming pool in Herne Bay with my dad, who is a swimming coach. I moved to Australia when I was 14 to go to a specialist sporting school called Southport School, to focus on my swimming.

I became frustrated with swimming, however, and retired from the sport. Just as it seemed my dream of going to the Olympics had gone, I started rowing at Herne Bay Rowing Club on my return to the UK and I havent looked back since.

Dan, who cites Bishopstone Glen (or Oldhaven Gap) in Herne Bay as his favourite place in Kent, will be looking for success in the Mens Eight at the Olympics. He was part of the Mens Eight team that won silver at the World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia last year and will be hoping to go one better in 2012.

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