Sports clubs hoping Olympic heroes will inspire next generation

Sports clubs across the West Midlands are gearing up for a boost in interest following the Olympics.

Clubs such as the Wrekin Riders in Telford are expecting an influx of new children
Clubs such as the Wrekin Riders in Telford are expecting an influx of new children

Each time a major tournament is held, like the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, more people turn their attention to activities seen on the television.

Cycling is one of the sports that sports clubs in the Black Country are expecting to see a boost in, and the region may get an extra boost with the arrival of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year.

David Viner, chairman of Halesowen Cycling Club, said: “Following the Olympics in London, there was a definite increase in members in sport, certainly in cycling and I think athletics as well.

“Obviously, as the years go by, that decreases again. Definitely the Olympic games and the Commonwealth games should see an increase in cycling and athletics. At the moment, we have about 190 members. After the Olympics in London, we went up to 250.”

Team GB's Charlotte Worthington took gold in the women s BMX freestyle Final in Tokyo. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Around 40 young people from across the West Midlands are members of the Wrekin Riders BMX club in Telford, where those winning medals in Tokyo have visited.

Kirsty Smallman, whose sons Eddie, 12, and Archie, 10, are both members of the club, said the support offered by the sport’s biggest stars was completely unique. She said: “I think it is the only sport where you have these Olympic medallists hanging out with the children at the side of the jump, the side of the track, and just supporting the youngsters.”

Kirsty added that the interest in BMX riding had seen huge growth ever since it became part of the world’s biggest sporting competition.

She said: “From when it became an Olympic sport in Beijing the interest has increased but since Kye and Beth brought home their medals we have been inundated with messages on Facebook with people wanting to come down to the novice sessions. My boys have been hearing people talking about it in the street and in restaurants, it is wonderful to see people recognising what wonderful athletes we have in the sport.”

Boxer Ben Whittaker, from Darlaston, won silver at the Olympics. An avid enthusiast of that sport, Paul Gough, who is chairman of Priory Boxing Club in Dudley, always welcomes the arrival of the Olympics.

Britain's Benjamin Whittaker, left, took home silver in the men's middleweight 75-kg boxing match in Tokyo. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

He said: “I think the Olympics motivates people to get into sport, 100 per cent. Now you will se a surge, like a fad on skateboarding and cycling.”

He is hoping to launch plans in the future to set-up a new facility within Dudley, at Meadow Road learning centre, that would enable youngsters to practice sports like BMX and skateboarding, which have featured in these latest Olympics.

He said: “You have got the youth club and the big building connected to it, which is the learning centre.

Paul Gough, chairman of Priory Boxing Club in Dudley, is looking forward to the surge of interest in sports off the back of the Olympics

“We are looking at taking over that. The adventure playground what used to be there, obviously it is overgrown and derelict now, it is not being used for anything.

“We are looking at taking over there. We could have an adventure playground again or a BMX track on there, and a big cycling track going all the way around.

“Or we could have a skatepark on there or we can have an activity area with a climbing wall.

“There is a few things that we can put there.”

Joe Lockley, who runs Bright Star Boxing Club in Shifnal, said that the club had been born out of interest following Anthony Joshua’s performances at the London 2012 Olympics.

Hundreds of youngsters take part in a variety of different sessions at the club – with a host of different aims, some to become athletes, some just to find a focus and learn important life skills.

Coach Sam Hinett working with seven-year-old Lewis Hedges at Brightstar Boxing in Shifnal

Joe said: “In terms of amateur boxing there is no bigger competition than the Olympics and every single young person looking up, they want to be like the Olympians – and especially having a couple of people from the West Midlands, that has given people the encouragement that no matter what their background they can go on to achieve great things.

He added: “The club started because some people locally were having anti-social behaviour issues and needed a positive interventions. Seeing what worked for Anthony Joshua at the Olympics we thought we could replicate some of that with people here by holding the pads for them and giving them that opportunity and that chance.

“We see a completely different section of people across the sessions. Kids come along to our programmes which are linked around schools, people struggling with behaviour, and “Every time the Olympics are on we get more and more people wanting to come and take part in the open sessions.”I think that is just people seeing the Olympics and being inspired to try new things.”

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