The Rio Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching and athletes around the country are finalising their preparations.
More than 14,000 competitors from around 200 countries are expected to compete in Brazil and we will be tracking Kent’s Team GB hopefuls as they strive to secure a place on the plane. Will their stories inspire you to try something new this summer?
Will Bayley – Table Tennis
Table Tennis star Will Bayley, 28, grew up in Groombridge, near Tunbridge Wells. He was born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that affects all four of his limbs. At aged seven he was diagnosed with cancer and endured a six month long course of chemotherapy at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
His love for sport began when his Grandma bought him a table as a distraction from his struggles with health. Having joined Byng Hall Table Tennis Club in Tunbridge Wells at age 12 his talent grew, and he represented Kent, competing against able-bodied players.
He experienced his first Paralympics in Beijing in 2008 and collected both bronze and silver medals in London four years later. Now ranked number one in the world in his class, he will be looking to complete the set with gold in his third Games in Brazil.
Ross Wilson – Table Tennis
Ross Wilson will join Will as part of a 12 strong GB Table Tennis Squad. He competed in London at the age of just 17, finishing fourth in the singles and winning bronze in the team event playing alongside Will.
As a junior he was ranked inside the top ten in the country in able-bodied Table Tennis and won two national doubles titles but in 2011 he was diagnosed with multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, a rare genetic disorder that affects the growing ends of bones. Ross is currently ranked eighth in the world and will be hoping to feature in the medals again.
Sophie Ainsworth – Sailing
Ashford born Sophie Ainsworth learned to sail at Bewl Water, near Tunbridge Wells, and was selected to Team GB in March along with her partner Charlotte Dobson. The pair are currently ranked 9th in the world but finished 5th at the 2015 World Championships.
Sophie, who turns 27 this month, will be competing in her first Olympics and is in the 49er FX class.
More to come
Check out our talented performer profiles, which include Will, Ross and Sophie. Many of the others featured there are also in the mix to make it to Brazil and we will publish a final list of those who do closer to the start of the Games. Keep an eye on our website and Twitter feed over the summer for updates on all that is happening in Rio.
At a glance
- August 5-21, 19 days of competition
- 42 sports, 306 events
- 136 medals for women, 161 for men, 9 mixed
- September 7-18, 11 days of competition
- 23 sports, 528 events
- 225 medals for women, 265 for men, 38 mixed