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OLYMPICS: We're watching and hoping
A SUDDEN appearance in the limelight is something many of Team GB have had to get used to as part of the build-up to London 2012 – and their families don’t escape the Games experience either.
Especially when your son happens to be tipped as a potential home gold medallist on the final weekend of the Games.
So while Bradford on Avon’s sprint canoeing hope Ed McKeever has escaped the fever-pitched excitement to finalise his assault on gold at a preparation camp in Spain, parents Derek and Janice have been getting their own taste of being part of the ‘Olympic Family.’
And if that includes being interviewed in the car park of a well-known supermarket, then so be it.
“It’s an interesting time. We’re getting involved in doing a whole load of things than normally we wouldn’t be getting involved with,’’ said Derek, the membership secretary at Bradford on Avon Rowing and Canoeing Club where Ed started, aged 12, his long road to an Olympic appearance.
“We don’t usually do these sorts of things so it’s been quite unusual.
“We’ve had film crews down here (to the club) and I’ve been called to do a few radio interviews, including one just after Edward had been selected.
“I was driving Janice to work and had to pull into Morrisons car park to do it.’’ Media interest is just one aspect though, with the couple also encouraged to feel part of the Team GB camp ahead of the Games.
He added: “We got invited up for the opening of the friends and family (Team GB) house in London (in June).
“It was a strange day because when we actually go to the Olympics, we are not going to get involved in what goes on in Stratford.
“We are going to be based in Dorney (Eton, which is hosting the canoe sprint events).
“It was nice to go up and see the Olympic village and the Orbit and meet parents from other sports.
“We met (swimmer) Rebecca Adlington’s parents and (eventing rider) William Fox-Pitt’s wife as well as (swimmer) Gemma Spofforth’s family. We were a group invited as the parent group and while we were there I met David Hemery (1968 Olympic 400m hurdles champion, who now lives near Marlborough).’’
He said: “We’ve lived in east London and it’s been quite interesting to see how it’s all changed.
“His big brother (Tom) was born in Whipps Cross Hospital, which is probably one of the nearest hospitals to the (Olympic) stadium, although Edward was born in Bath.’’
The serious business gets underway on the morning of next Friday (August 10) when Ed launches his bid in the heats of the K1 200m at Dorney Lake with his parents and Tom watching from the waterside.
And taking himself away from all the pre-event hullabaloo is a tried and trusted method of preparation for the 28-year-old, who will return to Britain early next week just days before his event.
Janice said: “He’s gone off to Spain and basically been cool, calm and collected over there.
“He likes to go off before big races and just be by himself and with his coach and not get involved with anything.
“We don’t go near him until after competition – he never normally speaks to us until the race is finished.
“Some of the other athletes come over and speak to their mums and dads, but never him and we just don’t go near him. Sometimes I’ll speak more to his opposition than him.’’
As he is the 2010 world and European champion and a a multiple World Cup race winner, there is no disguising the fact that many are pinning their hopes on the Bradford on Avon man to add the Olympic title to his collection.
The 200m was added to the programme for London ahead of the 500m, dramatically increasing the chances of potential Olympic glory for the Wiltshire paddler.
“One of his targets has been to get to the top and the Olympics has been a hard road to actually qualify,’’ said Derek. “The competition to get to the Olympics is ridiculous. It’s harder to get to the Olympics than it is to do well when you are there.
“You’ve got to race against everyone at some point during all the build-up but, when you think about it, half the opposition (at the Olympics) isn’t there because they haven’t made it through the European qualifiers.’’
He added: “We were out in Canada a few years ago when we heard that all of a sudden the 200m, which we’ve known is Ed’s best event, had been made an Olympic event.
“I think it took a day or so for the implications to sink in for Ed. We knew he was in the top 10 for 500m but it was a complete surprise to find that in that first year afterwards he was the number one at the 200m.’’
The ferociously-quick nature of the 200m event though ensures any mistakes are magnified and picking a winner can prove something of a lottery.
Janice said: “One mistake and that could be it. You saw Usain Bolt in the (athletics world championship) 100m final last year (he was disqualified for a false start) and you know what can happen.
“In the European Championships he was down in fifth and we were thinking ‘what have you done wrong here?’ but he pulled back up to third which shows his class because you don’t normally change positions in that short distance.
“He’s just had a bad start and taken a while to get going. We sometimes don’t know what’s happened in a race and where he’s finished.’’
And when it’s all over? “A good holiday,’’ according to Derek, although two other rather important dates loom large on the horizon.
“Both our boys are getting married this year (Ed on September 22 to fiancée Anya Kuczha in Beaconsfield near his Buckinghamshire base), so we’ve still got that to come,’’ said Janice.