sports

Katherine Grainger wants to help young people ‘fall back in love’ with sports they missed in lockdown


Olympians Katherine Grainger and Christine Ohuruogu are behind a grassroots campaign aiming to discover new talent (Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images for UK Sport)

It’s not all about being the very best, you know.

That’s the message Dame Katherine Grainger is sending in a new campaign, for which the British Olympic Association, British Paralympic Association, UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport are teaming up for the first time with the aim of discovering Britain’s untapped sporting potential.

Home 2 The Games wants to engage 11 to 23-year-olds who are sporting or physically active to participate in Olympic sport and 15 to 34-year-olds with an impairment that makes them eligible to participate in Paralympic sport.

Of course, it is not the first time British sport has set up a talent identification scheme to boost the ranks of athletes at future Olympic or Paralympic Games.

But this time there is extra motivation, with the pandemic having decimated sports clubs up and down the country and left so many people without their fix of activity.

UK Sport chair Grainger, who partnered Anna Watkins to rowing double sculls gold at the 2012 Olympics, feels the initiative is much needed after such difficult times for the nation.

With many sports clubs closed, Home 2 Games is a new way to measure talent (Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images for UK Sport)

On the Home 2 The Games’ website, you are able to take Olympic or Paralympic tests which gauge your levels of skill, speed, jumping, pushing or throwing.

Grainger insists it is not only a way of discovering future British sporting stars but that one spin-off might be simply to get people to fall back in love with the sport they enjoyed before the pandemic struck last year.

‘The timing feels right,’ Grainger tells Metro. ‘Not only do we want to find potential champions but also those who want to re-engage with sport and bring it back into their lives. People who have felt the door is closed to them.

‘In the modern world, they have everything at their fingertips now – there are so many more things they could be doing than sport.

‘On the one hand, you appreciate the things you had more when you don’t do them but we shouldn’t underestimate that people did have sport as a big part of their lives and have now found other things to fill their time. People who have gone back to sport are loving it.

Katherine won gold at the 2012 London Olympics alongside double sculls partner Anna Watkins(Picture: Steve Pond)

‘People have got out of the habit of sport and activity, so it is a crucial time to maximise the impact sport can have on their lives.’

While so many hopefuls for the next summer Games, in Paris in 2024, may already play sport, there are plenty of potential contenders who might not have found their niche yet. It is with them that Grainger aims to engage.

‘The big-scale ambition is finding people who might not have thought of sport in that way,’ she says. ‘Tokyo is on the horizon and we want people to think that is something amazing they can be part of. Maybe they would have thought, “It’s not me” in the past but now think, “Why not?”.’

Grainger’s former British team-mate Helen Glover is a prime example of the type of diverse, inclusive Team GB she would like to see in the coming years.

Glover, who won gold in the coxless pair in 2012 and 2016, has become the first woman to make a British Olympic rowing team as a mother.

Making the team for Japan represents one of the sporting stories of the summer following her decision to step away to start a family.

The mum of three came back strong to make the Tokyo team, having come into the sport herself through a talent ID scheme, Sporting Giants, in 2008.

Grainger adds: ‘Helen is an inspiration. She has been very honest about how challenging it is and it is a really amazing thing as a mum to say, “This is what I can do”.

‘It’s important to show you can be a mum, you can be an Olympic rower. You can come back from having kids to the top level. You can be whole. Sport can still be a big part of your life and we want to show that opportunity is there and have as diverse a range of people on the team as possible.’


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