22.Aug.12 Marshall Milton Keynes AC living the legacy - and Greg Rutherford "joins in"
England Athletics is working in partnership with Join In Local Sport to help more people get involved in athletics on the back of the enthusiasm generated by the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.
The national Join In programme’s Battle Bus weekend tour included a stop at Marshall Milton Keynes Athletic Club during the weekend which saw a number of Athletics Club Community Days taking place across the country.
The club is home to Olympic Gold medallist Greg Rutherford and he joined Daley Thompson, Sharron Davies, John Inverdale and Dave Moorcroft on the visit. Lots of people were at the club on Saturday evening to join in the “Find the next Greg Rutherford' Long Jump Competition” and to meet the stars. Excitement was at fever pitch when the Battle Bus arrived.
A long jump competition had been set up for the youngsters to try, with current athletes helping out; 14-year-old Naomi was proudly wearing her club vest and says she trains here 3 times a week, plus twice elsewhere, and specialises in long jump, sprints and hurdles. She was looking forward to meeting Greg.
England Athletics spoke to some of the young athletes and their parents who were enjoying the evening. Eight-year-old Peggy had been to watch the Olympics with her mum Jackie. Peggy had been attending the local Startrack sessions at the club for the past 3 years and told us “Jess Ennis is my hero”. The Heptathlete gold medallist in fact also started her athletics career through Startrack.
William (7), Samuel (8), and Oliver (8) were all waiting their turn for the long jump when we caught up with them, and they had also experienced Startrack and had enjoyed trying a number of different events. William’s favourite was the hammer and Sam said, “This is better than at school as there is a real sandpit although Greg came to our school which was cool.” Oliver told us, “Long Jump is fun – it’s the best ever!” Samuel’s dad David told us he was really impressed with the club, “It’s really inclusive and ability doesn’t matter as long as you want to have a go. We’re riding on the back of the excitement of the Olympics and are considering joining the club.”
Another parent – of “super-fast Phoebe” told us that her daughter loves running and anything active. The club recently held a “how many jumps to 8m31 (Greg’s winning distance) – the initiative of coach Gordon Fallow. "Phoebe did it in 7 jumps – Gordon is amazing with the young kids and encourages them to join on a Tuesday evening." Eight-year-old Maddie loved Gordon’s summer sessions too – her mum told us, "Gordon was great. He let Maddie and the others try everything over the week. She loved it and brought a friend and they will be joining the young athlete sessions in September. She has the making of a star – even beating the boys in cross country!" Those who had not managed to get tickets had seen the Olympics on TV and the “red button” was mentioned in that it allowed then to see a full field event such as the long jump. "You could really follow it and get excited for the athletes and see how the competition was going."
John Inverdale introduced Greg Rutherford to the crowd and emphasised that the momentum from the Olympics must keep going. "Take up sport and get involved – if not as an athlete, then remember the sport could not happen without club volunteers and officials, and everyone is needed to create the champions of the future." David Moorcraft thanked club stalwart and chairman Mick Bromilow, then Daley Thompson and Sharron Davies then spoke of their Olympic highlights and presented club awards to outstanding volunteers – the Inspiration Award went to Carl and Diane Baldwin, Promising Young Sportsperson was collected for javelin thrower Freddie Curtis by coach Chris Watts (Freddie was on holiday), and Heroic Volunteer to Gordon Fallow.
We caught up with the club volunteers; when we asked Diane how the club had been recently with all the Olympic excitement she commented, “It’s like the surge after twenty London marathons – we’ve been inundated with children - AND adults - who want to try everything. We’ve got excellent coaches and a coaching structure which provides a good core and brings people on. Sometimes I go and compete and when the kids see ‘an old lady’ doing events they will also try it. The Olympics have really taken England out of the doldrums for two weeks." And clubs all over the country are helping harness that energy.
Long Jump coach Gordon Fallow had been organising the evening and told us that his philosophy was to let anyone have a go who wants to – everyone can come and try and no one is turned away. "I always have time for everyone and that reflects the strength and popularity of the long jump at the club. There’s been amazing growth at the startrack sessions and three of our successful young athletes Amelia, Tyrell and Cameron have started there and gone on to represent the club and county. But I can’t do it without help – if it wasn’t for my young volunteers Elizabeth, Alice, Ellie and Gemma the 5-8yr group and the startrack just wouldn’t happen. I try not to just get better heights or distances but build confidence, perseverance and life skills."
This view was reflected in Greg’s talk to the assembled athletes about his long jump, that perseverance is the main thing, throughout the peaks and troughs of his career. He stated, "I tried everything and enjoyed it all but I didn’t identify as a long jumper. I quit for a bit to be a normal 16 year old, and I never won ESAA or anything but my parents and the club was there for me when I came back. I had a great team around me and the club has always been fantastic and supportive." He passed on some of his knowledge to aspiring young long jumpers - how the different phases of the jump work together and that his run up is 45m20. "It’s really important to repeat everything" he noted, "it helps your body learn".
When asked if he thought whether 8m31 would win Gold he said that field events are all about what happens on the day and he was counting off the competitors during the last round and only realised he’d won when Claye ran through the pit. He was so focussed on his jumping he was not that aware of the Super Saturday uniqueness, although he knew Jess was in the stadium and got her gold.
It was certainly true that the Olympics has inspired many at Milton Keynes to try athletics and to consider continuing with the sport. Local England Athletics Club and Coach Support Officer Amy Frith commented, "Like many other Athletic Clubs in the Country, Marshall Milton Keynes AC has worked extremely hard to provide all of its athletes with an opportunity to aspire to be the best that they can be. The club is clearly very proud of Greg’s successes and this event was a great way to celebrate his achievements, award club volunteers for their dedication to the club and inspire young people to get involved. It is great to see the reaction of the local community and hopefully they will be inspired to volunteer or participate at their local club."
As coach Gordon summarised, "We’re getting ready for a big surge – in fact I’m going to the England Athletics Conference to improve my skills and attend the wheelchair racing courses so that I can help with the interest that’s bound to be generated after the Paralympics!"
And once the bus had driven around the track it left Stantonbury stadium, Greg spent almost another hour signing autographs and posing for photos with the youngsters who one day wanted to be following in his footsteps.
Photographs by Tom Blackman
(apart from bottom pic and 'thumbs up' - by Nicola Evans)
England Athletics Online store
Click here to visit the Official England Athletics online store.