For British athletes and spectators alike, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was an experience like no other.

It’s now ten years since Jess Ennis-Hill and Jonnie Peacock lit up the Olympic Stadium, Dame Katherine Grainger and Ellie Simmonds shone both on and in the water, and the likes of Laura Kenny, Hannah Cockroft, Nicola Adams and Lee Pearson made themselves household names.

For some, it changed careers and lives. All this summer, we’ll be asking British athletes – whether they competed in London or not – for their memories of the Games, and the impact that it’s had on them.

Here, para-cyclist Sophie Thornhill tells how watching her future event from the stands at the London velodrome inspired her to gold four years later in Rio.

“I was 16 in 2012, and I remember the build-up to London 2012 really vividly. It was everywhere: on the TV, on billboards, in shops, everywhere.

“I had got tickets to the cycling through the ballot process, and I remember when they arrived in the post and it finally felt real that I was going to the Paralympics to watch my sport, and some of the people I looked up to and some I even knew at the time.

“The Olympics were massive, and you could just feel the excitement was carrying over the Paralympics; it felt like people who hadn’t taken an interest in para-sport before just wanted to carry on watching London 2012, and that really drew people into the world of Paralympic sport.

“The same attention was given to the Paralympics and the coverage was promoted really well, so at the time I really felt that the Olympics was just the warm-up for the Paralympics – as the marketing campaign promoted at the time!

“London 2012 was revolutionary for para-sport, for the first time Paralympic athletes became household names alongside their Olympic counterparts. People were now aware that para-sport was just sport, and the athletes were not just inspirational stories but elite athletes who train to be the best in their sport just like any other sportsperson.

“I remember watching the tandem kilometre time trial at London thinking, ‘this is my event, and I want that to be me in four years’ time in Rio’. I knew it was what I wanted to do and I was ready make it happen, and that feeling was really enforced by watching so many great performances inside the velodrome.

“Watching multiple ParalympicsGB athletes win medals was really inspiring to me, and I was sat watching thinking ‘I need to make that me’.

“As it turned out, four years later it was me, and I ended up competing alongside many of the athletes who competed in London, which was a little daunting for me as I knew they had been there and got the t-shirt.

“They knew what to expect from the environment, from the village, from the food hall etc. so I picked the brains of my team-mates to get as much prior knowledge as possible ahead of the Games.

“As well as using their advice, I used them and their London success to reassure myself that I deserved to be there, that I had put in the hard work and I too could go to the Games and win. Being part of such strong squads gives everyone the belief that you can go on to put in great performances and be successful, no matter what that success looks like.”


2022-09-01 10:43:54
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