Jul 26 2012

Part 2: North East Olympics 2012 Hopefuls – The Men

As the Olympics 2012 draws closer we take a look at The North East Olympian Men who have nothing but Gold in their sights!

Paul Drinkhall, 22, Middlesbrough/North Yorkshire – Table Tennis

Paul Drinkhall is Britain’s No.1 with 33 national titles to his name, including domestic gold medals in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. He grabbed a hat-trick of gold medals at the European Youth Championships in Italy, staying undefeated in all disciplines.

It all started when Paul watched his granddad play in the local league, and picked up a free bat. At age 11 he left home to train at the National Table Tennis Academy.

Paul won two medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, including mixed doubles bronze with partner Joanna Parker.

A four-time English national singles champion, Drinkhall also won three European junior gold medals in 2008 and finished second in the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award in 2007 and 2004.

In fact Paul does his training in China – the world’s leading table tennis nation – because of insufficient facilities in Britain.

See Paul in action at the English Nationals 2012 Final, where he won Liam Pitchford


Info source and

Matt Wells, 33, Hexham – Rower

Matt first learnt to row in 1993 at Queen Elizabeth High School because he wanted to try other sports to complement his running. He won a bronze medal in the men’s double scull at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games showing real class in a very challenging field, missing silver by four hundredths of a second.  This was the first British men’s Olympic sculling medal since 1976 and the culmination of an exceptional 3 years in the double with Stephen Rowbotham.

Matt comes from a very sporty family. His father had football trials with Middlesbrough, his mother played county level netball and his younger brother Peter emulated Matt by winning the World U23 single scull title in 2002.

Matt was an extremely accomplished runner before he took up rowing.  He was County Champion at 800, 1500 and 3000 metres and winner of the regional league cross country title.

After a great career Matt has decided to retire from rowing after this year’s London Olympics. And he is marking his retirement with a special Olympic-standard event on the Tyne at Hexham, where he was brought up and first rowed for the town’s high school at the age of 13.

He said “We are looking forward to what’s already shaping up to be a fantastic day on the water.”

Info source and

Chris Tomlinson, 30, Middlesbrough – Long Jump

As a junior at Middlesbrough athletics club Chris competed in the 100m and 200m, but was always a talented leaper who broke his school’s long jump and triple jump records and soon gave up sprinting.

At the moment Chris is the british indoor and outdoor record holder.

Chris won bronze at the European Championships in 2010 and competed in the men’s long jump at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. He jumped 7.70m but did not progress through to the final.

A calf injury ruled him out of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and an achilles problem stopped his medal charge at the European Indoor Championships in 2009. Lets hope Chris has better luck this time around!

In 2008, he wed his West End actress girlfriend Lucia Rovardi (a former Miss Newcastle), who gave birth to their son Raphael in March.

Chris says “The difference between athletes and footballers is that we’re in the real world.”

What does it take to be an Olympic Athlete? British long jump record holder, Chris Tomlinson tells us below.

Info source and

Ross Murray, 21, Gateshead – Runner 1500m

Ross started running from a young age and was English schools champion before he went to the European Juniors. He recently took two seconds off his 1,500m personal best in May to obtain the Olympic ‘A’ standard. Came second in the UK indoor 300m in 2011.

Although just twelve months ago Ross Murray had given up on his athletics dream. He was considering becoming a holiday rep and preferred the life of a student to hard training.

However, a change of heart and a stunning personal best in Hengelo in May put him on the fringes of Olympic selection, and second place behind Andrew Baddeley at the team trials in Birmingham confirmed it.

The week before he ran the Olympic qualifying time, his ankle ballooned up after he was bitten by an ant, did this give Ross superpowers…we hope so!

See Ross talk about the Olympics in an interview at St Mary’s University College in Twickenham where he studied Sport Science and Psychology.

Info source and

Nick McCormick, 30, Hexham – Runner 5000m

Nick began running aged 16 after being inspired by watching videos of champion middle-distance runners Steve Cram, Seb Coe and Steve Ovett.

He has come first in the UK 1,500m at the 2011 Indoor Championships and third in the 1,500m outdoor event.

His decision to step up in distance this season has paid dividends as he prepares to compete in his first major outdoor championship since 2006.

The Morpeth Harrier took nearly ten seconds off his personal best when he ran the Olympic A standard in Spain in June and then finished second at the trials to confirm his place in the team.

Nick said

“I think I am difficult to get past as I can wind the race up from far out and make it tough.”

Apart from running taking up alot of Nick’s time he is also studying for a degree in leisure management at Loughborough University.

See Nick talk after one of his latest races in May 2012 in the video below.

Info source and

Jason Steele, 21, plays for Middlesbrough – Mens Football

Jason is a 6’2” goalkeeper who came through the youth ranks at Middlesbrough and broke into the First Team at the start of the 2010-11 season.

The highly rated stopper has represented England at U16, U17 and U19 level and has enjoyed notable success during his fledgling international career.

Team GB warmed up for the tournament with a friendly against Brazil at the Riverside Stadium on Friday, July 20 which ended in in a 2-0 loss. Jason was in the starting team and put in a valiant effort.

Jason’s campaign properly starts at Manchester’s Old Trafford stadium against Senegal on July 26; the team  then play the United Arab Emirates at Wembley on July 29, before their final group fixture against Uruguay at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on August 1.

The Great Britain men’s football squad for London 2012 is: Jack Butland (Birmingham), Jason Steele (BORO); Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea), Steven Caulker (Tottenham), Craig Dawson (West Brom), Micah Richards (Manchester City), Neil Taylor (Swansea), James Tomkins (West Ham); Joe Allen (Swansea), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Jack Cork (Southampton), Ryan Giggs (Manchester United), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Scott Sinclair (Swansea); Craig Bellamy (Liverpool), Marvin Sordell (Bolton), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea). and


Please leave your best wishes to the Athletes below…


See Part 1 – The Women

Coming Soon!

Part 3: Olympics 2012 Results – How did the North East do?

Part 4: North East Paralympic 2012 hopefuls

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