The School Games multi-sport event has become a breeding ground for Olympic and Paralympic stars of the future – with over 100 GB athletes, who have competed at the event previously, enjoying huge success at the recent Rio Games.
The national event took place at Loughborough University over four days at the start of September, with 1,600 of the UK’s elite young athletes, competing in 12 current and future Olympic and Paralympic sports. The event is delivered by the Youth Sport Trust and supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England.
In the Olympics, it was gymnast Max Whitlock – a travelling reserve for the School Games in 2006 – who took the headlines, as he won two gold medals – becoming the first British gymnast ever to win an individual event – and a bronze in the team event.
There were fine performances from sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, a School Games competitor in 2012, who was part of the 100m relay team that took bronze; three-time School Games star Lily Owsley and teammate Georgie Twigg, who helped the women’s hockey team win a momentous gold; as well as Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who finished sixth in the heptathlon, seven years after appearing at the School Games. The School Games alumni brought home over a quarter of Team GB’s record breaking total of 67 medals – the highest medal count in any Games not on British soil.
However, their exploits were matched or even arguably surpassed by the brilliance of Paralympics GB’s heroes, who claimed a total of 147 medals – 64 of them gold.
Hannah Cockroft, who competed at the 2011 School Games, won three gold medals – in the 100m, 400m and 800m – to take her Paralympic medal count to five. Ellie Simmonds, who competed at the School Games in 2006 at the age of just 11, retained her title in the 200m individual medley, whilst also taking a bronze in the 400m freestyle. Jonnie Peacock, who appeared at the School Games in 2009, also won the coveted T44 100m title for the second successive Paralympics.
Swimmer Bethany Firth, who won a silver medal in London a year after competing at the School Games, won four medals– three of them gold. Her fellow swimmer and graduate of the 2014 School Games, 15-year-old Ellie Robinson, became the nation’s sweetheart for her humble reaction to taking gold in the 50m butterfly. And Sophie Hahn, who competed at the School Games less than twelve months ago in September 2015, won gold in the T38 100m and helped the 4x100m relay team take silver.
If the School Games alumni were an independent nation they would have won 50 Paralympic medals, with 22 of them being gold, finishing sixth place in the medal table – a truly monumental achievement.
Speaking about the success of the School Games programme and its alumni, Youth Sport Trust’s Chief Executive Ali Oliver said: “We have been overwhelmed by the success of our Olympic and Paralympic stars in Rio this summer. Following the successes of our alumni in London we were quietly hopeful of a strong performance from what is a brilliant group of young people, but what we got was truly beyond our wildest expectations.
For School Games alumni to finish with more than 60 medals across both the Olympic and Paralympic Games is testament to the hard work and dedication of all the people that have contributed to the School Games programme over the last eleven years. From the athletes to the coaches and support staff, to the hundreds of young volunteers that have given up their time to help our young sportsmen and women be the best that they can be.