30.Jul.12 From Wessex League to the Olympic Stadium
“This whole experience is surreal and it’s the sort of thing that you think happens to someone else.” These were the comments of Leroy Elliott when he heard that Olivia Breen, one of the athletes in his training group, had been selected for the GB Team for the Paralympics.
It’s been a whirlwind experience for both of them this season and a journey that started five years ago for Leroy when he decided to take up coaching in a sport which had given him so much pleasure that he wanted to give something back. Both his daughters wanted to compete and he noticed many of the coaches were his peers when competing for the Navy, Combined Services and Southern Counties. They encouraged him to consider coaching.
Around the same time, 11 year old Olivia joined the junior training group at City of Portsmouth AC organized by Phil Budd, assisted by Leroy. Phil, now Chairman of City of Portsmouth recalls a young athlete, who never stopped smiling and made great progress.
In 2010, Leroy was advised by Phil to join the England Athletics Local Coach Development Programme, as he moved up the coaching pathway and qualified as an Athletics Coach in 2011. His LCDP courses have been extremely useful in his development as a coach? – Chris, you know that they all have been extremely useful. He talks about his top 5 in the interview below.
Meanwhile, Olivia competed regularly in the Wessex League and other local events, and moved from the junior group to train specifically for sprints with Leroy and his mentor, Bungy (Peter) Williams (pictured right). All Olivia wanted to do was to sprint, to be part of the group and to build up her confidence.
Last winter, Olivia attended the UKA/ England Athletics AVIVA Parallel Success Coach and Athlete Talent Introduction Day at Lee Valley, which was an important milestone. Olivia’s mother Helen elaborates, “Olivia continued to compete for the club and it was only in May this year that she was classified to compete in the T38 group. The Talent Introduction Day is obviously really close to our hearts as it has proved to be a major turning point in Olivia's life. Before the day Olivia was reluctant to view herself as disabled and in any way different from her friends. That day at Lee Valley made Olivia appreciate that having Cerebral Palsy was part of her and that many "cool" people have disabilities. From that day she has seen her disability as a positive element of her personality and something which has made her the person she is today. Meeting Liz (Purbrick), the UKA team and the other athletes gave Olivia the confidence to attend the classification clinic at the next AVIVA Parallel Success Athlete Talent Introduction Day and the rest is history.”
South East Disability Athletics Support Officer Liz Purbrick commented: "I first met Leroy when he supported me at the Hampshire County Athlete Assessment Day as part of Playground to Podium. He mentioned he was coaching a disabled athlete at Portsmouth AC so I sent through some information about the AVIVA Parallel Success Coach and Athlete Talent Introduction Days, the rest is history really! I was thrilled to see Olivia’s name on the selection list for the Paralympics and I firmly believe that the inclusive nature of both Leroy and Portsmouth AC has contributed to this. Olivia’s integration into a mainstream training group has provided her with the best possible athletics environment and I hope this is just the start of even bigger things to come."
Olivia’s times were so good for an athlete with cerebral palsy that she shot into the world rankings and won bronze medals in 100m and 200m at the European Championships in Holland. Phil said, “She has gone from competing in the Wessex League this summer to a World ranked athlete. It’s amazing. Both Livvy and Lee have developed simultaneously. The club is so pleased for them both.”
Olivia is the youngest member of the Paralympic team having just turned 16. Her twin brother, Dan, also trains in the same group as well as playing rugby. Leroy and Bungy are assisted by Georgina Ayling as the group continues to grow, and achieve personal bests this season. A key part of their session is an emphasis on drills and strength work but whilst working hard, there is a huge sense of fun and enjoyment the whole time.
Leroy's wife and family are very proud and ecstatic of what he has been able to do for Olivia and all the other athletes within the group, who have all exceeded their goals with PBs this year. Leroy said, "We have approx 55 athletes on our books; male and female, able bodied, and athletes with disabilities. They have been selected to compete for the club, for Hampshire and some have taken part in the English Schools.
Leroy was interviewed by Chris Benning, Local Club and Coach Support Officer, who says, “This is a story of hard work and dedication by everyone involved, especially Leroy and Olivia. It’s fantastic that the development opportunities provided by England Athletics and UKA have also played their part in supporting Leroy and Olivia in their amazing progression.”
You can read the interview in full in the PDF document at the very bottom of the page.
England Athletics Online storeClick here to visit the Official England Athletics online store.
Wear official England Athletics clothing.
All 'profits' made by England Athletics are reinvested into the development of athletics in England