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The real Team GB! Read the tales of sacrifice and patience of the parents of our Tokyo Olympians

100 miles apart so she could excel

David Morgan and Amelie Morgan

David Morgan, from Slough, Berkshire, is dad to Amelie Morgan, 18, who won bronze in the women’s team gymnastics alongside Alice Kinsella and twins Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova.

With Amelie’s small, local gymnastics club unable to accommodate her exceptional talent, David and his wife Kate decided to divide their family in two and live 100 miles apart to allow her to excel.

So, five years ago, Amelie and Kate moved to North Somerset and Amelie began training at The Academy of Gymnastics in Portishead, while David and Finlay — Amelie’s twin brother, also a gymnast who’s competed for Britain — stayed at home.

‘Making that decision was huge,’ says business owner David. ‘Amelie has clear ability, a great work ethic and temperament, and where that would lead we didn’t know. But it was a dream she wanted to follow.’

After the family split, so did David and Kate. ‘It is part of the bigger picture, we separated from it all very amicably,’ he says, adding the two are ‘still very, very close’.

Praising Kate for her support, he adds: ‘I effectively exchanged a wife for the mother of my kids, but no qualms whatsoever. I would do [the move] again in a heartbeat.’

Amelie and Finlay’s passion for the sport began as a ruse by David and Kate to keep the children occupied for as long as possible.

‘We had twins full of energy, so we had to find something to do,’ says David. ‘Gymnastics was an hour-and-a-half on a Saturday morning, and everything else was just an hour.’ Before long, Amelie was training 20 hours a week.

Great Britain's Alice Kinsella, Jennifer Gadirova, Jessica Gadirova and Amelie Morgan celebrate with their bronze medals after the Women's Team Final at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre on the fourth day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Great Britain’s Alice Kinsella, Jennifer Gadirova, Jessica Gadirova and Amelie Morgan celebrate with their bronze medals after the Women’s Team Final at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre on the fourth day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

‘She would spend four or five hours in the gym on top of a school day,’ says David, a former rugby player.

He adds that, although the family was ‘fortunate’ to be able to rent a house in Portishead, the distance means he has gone a long time without seeing his daughter.

‘In the past couple of years, I have not seen her very often at all.’ But, he says: ‘I don’t feel the sacrifice has negatively impacted on our relationship. Probably my biggest concern was that it would cause a distance between her and her brother.’

Yet Finlay, he says, ‘delights in her success’, and was with his dad in Slough to watch Amelie win her bronze medal, prompting ‘a joy that was unmatched’.

And David refuses to take credit for his daughter’s achievement.

‘As parents, your responsibility is to build foundations for your kids, and you build them as wide and deep as you can.

‘What they build on them is down to them.’

I encouraged her the way I never was

Charlotte Dulardin rides Valero in the Dressage

Charlotte Dulardin rides Valero in the Dressage

Jane, 60, and Ian Dujardin, 61, from Finmere, Buckinghamshire, are parents to Charlotte, 36, who won two bronze medals in dressage to become Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympian of all time.

Showjumping may be associated with the privileged, but Charlotte Dujardin’s parents defied the stereotype, turning up to events in a ‘rickety’ old lorry. ‘I used to say that it doesn’t matter what we turn up in — it’s what we come out with at the end,’ recalls Jane.

She spent £18,000 of her mother’s inheritance on Charlotte’s first horse, Fernandez, in 2002. ‘I had to — it got her on the map,’ says Jane, a former showjumper. She then persuaded six-time Olympian Carl Hester to teach her daughter. ‘He couldn’t believe what she had achieved on her own.’

Jane had spotted Charlotte’s talent when, as a toddler, she tried to sit on the dog: ‘She always wanted to be on a horse.’

Having never received encouragement from her own parents for her showjumping ambitions, Jane was determined to foster her daughters’ talent (older sister Emma Jayne, 38, also showjumps).

Charlotte Dujardin, partner Dean Golding and parents Jane and Ian Dujardin, after she was awarded a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II during an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London

Charlotte Dujardin, partner Dean Golding and parents Jane and Ian Dujardin, after she was awarded a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II during an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London

Charlotte got her first pony at three, and the sisters started competing.

Once, Jane says, ‘Ian drove through the night to Glasgow, for us to get in the ring at 9am.’

Charlotte won gold in London and Rio and, in 2017, received her CBE at Buckingham Palace with Mum by her side.

Jane had no doubts as the Tokyo Games arrived: ‘She has inner fight. She was never not going to get on that podium.’

He was rejected, but I wouldn’t give up

Jacquie Hughes, 58, lives in Maidenhead, Berkshire, and is mother to swimmer Tom Dean, 21, who won gold medals in the 200m freestyle and 4x200m relay.

A video of Jacquie Hughes celebrating her son’s win, surrounded by 70 screaming family members and friends donning ‘Team Tom’ T-shirts, went viral this week. 

‘It was a goosebump moment,’ says Jacquie, who spent years waking Tom and his four siblings at 5am for swimming training, before going to work.

The huge effort involved military preparation, says Jacquie, a policy director, who split up with the boys’ father eight years ago. 

‘In the evenings, I would race home like a lunatic to take them swimming again.’ 

Weekends were equally busy, filled with competitions.

Jacquie Hughes, 58, lives in Maidenhead, Berkshire, and is mother to swimmer Tom Dean, 21, who won gold medals in the 200m freestyle and 4x200m relay

Jacquie Hughes, 58, lives in Maidenhead, Berkshire, and is mother to swimmer Tom Dean, 21, who won gold medals in the 200m freestyle and 4x200m relay 

Tom was initially rejected by his swimming club aged ten, before Jacquie sought a second opinion

Tom was initially rejected by his swimming club aged ten, before Jacquie sought a second opinion

Yet she made sure the kids didn’t fall behind at school, with Tom — who got four A* A-levels — winning a place at Bath university to study mechanical engineering. 

‘I said to them: ”Swimming’s great but it’s your brain that will keep you going when old.” ‘

Tom was initially rejected by his swimming club aged ten, before Jacquie sought a second opinion. 

As he grew up, she took him to every competition, whether in England or South Korea, supporting him with a secret gesture. 

‘When he’s on the blocks, he looks up and we give each other a thumbs up. It’s like, ‘right, you’re good to go’.’

I gave up my home and job

Britain's Lauren Williams celebrates winning against Ivory Coast's Ruth Gbagbi

Britain’s Lauren Williams celebrates winning against Ivory Coast’s Ruth Gbagbi

Allan and Tanya Williams, both 50, from Pontllanfraith, are parents to Lauren, 22, who won a silver medal in taekwondo.

TO set Lauren on the path to success, mum Tanya moved out of the family home to a caravan on the outskirts of Manchester, so her daughter — then 13 — could be close to her training centre.

Even then, Tanya, who took leave from her job as a customer services adviser, was travelling 120 miles a day to taxi Lauren from school to training and back to the caravan site, where they used loo blocks activated with 20p pieces.

‘If a child can be given a chance, who are we to deny them?’ says dad Allan, who remained at home with younger daughter, Kirstie, now 20.

Lauren’s talent was fostered at four, when she attended kickboxing lessons after being bullied at school. ‘We were trying to think of ways to prepare her for the future,’ says Allan. At seven, she won the junior world championship title.

Unbeknown to Lauren, Allan applied for her to join GB Taekwondo’s ‘Fighting Chance’ talent-identification initiative after they watched Brit fighter Jade Jones win gold at the 2012 Olympics. ‘I said: ‘Can you see yourself doing that?’ She said: ‘Not really,’ but I knew she could do it.’ When she found out he’d applied for her, ‘her face lit up’.

The financial outlay has been huge. Even before switching sports, they had spent ‘not far off £100,000’.

But the investment paid off when the couple, joined by friends and family, watched their daughter win silver at the Olympics in their garden on a TV wedged between the patio doors. ‘We were cheering so loudly, I’m sure Lauren heard us,’ says Allan.

Taekwondo Olympic silver medallist Lauren Williams with her parents Allan and Tanya and her sister Kirstie

Taekwondo Olympic silver medallist Lauren Williams with her parents Allan and Tanya and her sister Kirstie

Nursed from a broken back to bronze medal   

Vince, 62, and Sharon Coward-Holley, 59, from Chelmsford, Essex, are parents to Matthew, 26, who won a bronze medal in shooting this week.

After breaking his back twice while rugby training, Matthew Coward-Holley was lucky to walk again, let alone become an Olympic medallist.

Yet his parents say the sport that dad Vince introduced him to aged six was a vital part of his recovery. ‘It gave him another focus,’ says Vince, meaning there were ‘no more depressed days about not being able to play’.

Sharon was at work when she heard her 12-year-old only child had been in a rugby accident and wasn’t moving. ‘It was immediate panic,’ she recalls. Matthew had two cracked vertebrae and a cracked disc.

Great Britain's Matthew Coward-Holley raises his gun after winning a silver medal in the Trap Men's final at Asaka Shooting Range

Great Britain’s Matthew Coward-Holley raises his gun after winning a silver medal in the Trap Men’s final at Asaka Shooting Range

Astonishingly, he recovered quickly, only to suffer a similar accident while training again two years later — this time ending up with three cracked vertebrae and three slipped discs.

In hospital for weeks, and initially unable to walk, doctors told Vince his son should stop playing rugby as it ‘may not be third time lucky’.

Matthew Coward-Holley and mother Sharon

Matthew Coward-Holley and mother Sharon

The couple then had the agonising job of telling Matthew — who had ambitions of playing for England. ‘That was the hardest bit,’ says Vince. ‘He was lost for a while.’

Then, aged 16, Matthew asked his father if he would take him shooting again. ‘I was delighted,’ says Vince.

‘Buying a gun isn’t cheap [competition guns start from £8,000] but I could see the passion was phenomenal and he found something he could move on with.’

Matthew’s vertebrae had fused after his accidents, so he had to wear a back brace at first and had a limited range of movement. But, incredibly, within a year Matthew had got into the England team, before becoming European and world champion.

‘If a competition fell on a birthday or anniversary, shooting came first,’ says Vince. Sharon never complained about not seeing her family ‘because it became Matthew’s passion after rugby. We’d go to the ends of the Earth for his shooting.’

He and Sharon were up at 2am to watch Matthew win bronze, after which Sharon was an ’emotional wreck’. Yet not supporting her son’s ‘phenomenal’ talent was never an option: ‘If it’s there, you’ve got to give them every encouragement to achieve their dream.’


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