Tokyo Olympics: the athletes to watch from south west London

The Tokyo Olympics start tomorrow after being delayed a year by COVID-19, and SWLondoner is previewing all the ones to watch from on our patch – finishing with the track and field athletes.

Athletics is always one of the showpieces of any Olympics, and Team GB is third in the all-time medal table with 194 medals and 53 golds.

Four golds at London 2012 was the joint-highest in a century, but was followed up by only two at Rio, and the baton has been passed to a new generation of athletes for Tokyo.

Below, SWL has profiled all of the track and field athletes who were either born in, or train in, south west London.

Katie Snowden – 1500m

Since breaking through at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Herne Hill Harriers middle-distance runner Katie Snowden has been frustrated by injuries.

The Balham-born 1500m runner made her return to the big stage in March, after two years on the sidelines with a sixth-place finish at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Torun, Poland.

Snowden, 27, was picked for the Team GB Olympic squad after a bronze medal finish at the 2021 British Athletics Championships at the end of June.

Although her third place position, and time of 4:08.62, was not enough to guarantee her a place at Tokyo, Snowden posted two times under the Olympic qualifying standard earlier in the year and was selected to compete.

Setting a personal best of 4:02.98 at the Sound Running Track meet in California was the crucial run in getting her on the plane to Tokyo, but also potentially the moment that kickstarted her career.

Stephanie Davis – Marathon

When Clapham Chasers marathon runner Stephanie Davis ran the 2021 British Athletics Marathon back in March, it was her first full marathon since December of 2019.

However, that didn’t stop Davis, who has only been racing competitively since 2018, from winning the race in a personal best of 2:27:16, over two minutes inside the Olympic qualifying time of 2:29:30.

The event, hosted at Kew Gardens by Richmond Runfest, was the Olympic trial event for British Athletics, thereby securing Davis her seat on the plane to Tokyo.

The Scot, who was born in Glasgow and went to the University of Edinburgh before moving to London to work in finance, ran her first marathon in Berlin in 2018, before running the 2019 London Marathon in a time of 2:32:38.

She then ran the Valencia Marathon in 2:27:40, her last marathon before COVID hit and cancelled the 2020 London Marathon, which Davis had been hoping to use to qualify for Tokyo as it would have been her first marathon in the elite field.

But in the end, it didn’t matter, as Davis came back and qualified anyway.

Jessie Knight – 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay

Schoolteacher from Epsom Jessie Knight gave up on athletics to focus on her teaching career in 2017, but since returning to the sport in 2019, the 27-year-old has made huge strides.

The 400m runner and hurdler exploded onto the scene in February of 2020, when she won the Glasgow Grand Prix 400m with a personal best 51.57s, the third fastest time of the year at the time.

She would go on to win the 400m at the British Indoor Championships and the 400m hurdles at the British Outdoor Championships later the same year.

Knight, who trains at the Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow club and previously trained at Herne Hill, was also part of the GB team that secured a silver medal in the 4x400m relay at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Torun in March.

Although not selected for the 400m in Tokyo, Knight will be part of the 4x400m relay team once again, as well as being picked for the 400m hurdles.

Zoey Clark – 4x400m relay

Joining Knight on the 4x400m relay team is Zoey Clark, who has a plethora of 4x400m medals under her belt.

Also part of the 4x400m team that secured a silver in Torun, Clark has another European Indoor silver medal to her name from Glasgow in 2019, and a World Championship silver from London in 2017.

The 26-year-old, who trains at Thames Valley Harries in Hammersmith & Fulham, also helped secure bronze medals in the 4x400m at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham and the European Championships in Berlin, both in 2018.

This is the chemical engineering graduate from Aberdeen’s first Olympics, but she is hoping to make an impact that will mean it isn’t her last.

Lawrence Okoye – Discus

Athletics – European Athletics Team Championships – Silesian Stadium, Chorzow, Poland – May 30, 2021 Great Britain’s Lawrence Okoye in action during the men’s discus throw final REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Despite a seven-year American Football detour, Croydon’s Lawrence Okoye is back at the Olympics, following his disappointing 12th place finish in the discus at London 2012.

Okoye’s discus career was looking promising, as the then 20-year-old threw a British record 68.24m in May 2012.

However, after only managing 61.03m in the final of the London Olympics, Okoye decided to play in the NFL, and was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers after being undrafted in 2013.

However, stints at the 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins failed to yield an NFL appearance, and Okoye eventually found his way back to where he started: the discus.

Okoye has improved year on year since his return to the sport, and twice in June threw further than the Olympic qualifying standard 66m, with a best of 67.13.

And finally, a victory in the discus at the British Championships last month, which served as the qualification event for Tokyo, was enough for Okoye to be selected.

He can now hope that his return to the sport comes full circle and he can go even better than he did in 2012.

Morgan Lake – High jump

At the age of 24, Morgan Lake is a six-time consecutive British high jump champion and as a teenager, she became the first British woman to reach an Olympic high jump final since 1992 in Rio.

However, Lake is looking to improve on her 10th place finish five years ago, where she jumped a personal best of 1.94m.

Since then, her personal best has improved again, to 1.97m but if she wants to medal at the Olympics, she will need to at least match that, and maybe even go one better and hit the magical 2m barrier.

Another member of the Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow club, Milton Keynes born Lake started her career juggling high jump and heptathlon but has since settled into the former discipline.

Her other career highlights include a fourth-place finish at the 2018 World Indoor Championships, and a Commonwealth Games silver medal in the same year, both with a 1.93m clearance.

Lorraine Ugen – Long jump

As a World Indoor bronze medallist, European Indoor silver medallist and national indoor record holder in the long jump (6.97m), it was expected that nothing would stop Lorraine Ugen competing for Team GB at Tokyo.

However, a nasty hamstring tear just nine months ago threatened to do just that.

Her rehab from the following surgery was successful enough for the Southwark-born athlete to finish third at the British Championships in June, her jump of 6.60m enough to see her selected alongside fellow Olympic finalist in Rio Jazmin Sawyers and Abigail Irozuru.

Ugen finished 11th in Rio in 2016 and will still be hoping to perform better than the 6.58m she jumped in that competition.

Imani-Lara Lansiquot – 4x100m relay

While Imani-Lara Lansiquot will be disappointed not to be running in the 100m in Tokyo, she will still be setting her sights on a medal as part of the 4x100m relay team.

The 23-year-old from Peckham ran an 11.24s in the British Championships last month, 0.03s behind Daryll Neita who qualified for the Olympics in third.

However, the Sutton & District Athletics Club sprinter will look to build on previous successes with Team GB, as she helped deliver a European gold in 2018 in Berlin, and a World silver medal in Doha in 2019.

The Olympic debutant was also named British champion in 2020, as she ran an 11.26 to claim the gold, but it was a difficult year for her as she was struck down by COVID and struggled to breathe for months.

Away from the track, Lansiquot has also taken up the role of Athlete Lead in British Athletics’ Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advocates Group after suffering horrific racial abuse in 2020.

Taylor Campbell – Hammer throw

One of the keys to being successful during the Olympics is peaking at the right time, and hammer thrower Taylor Campbell seems to be doing just that.

Campbell qualified for the Olympics last month by becoming British champion in Manchester, with a throw of 75.10m.

Just over a month previous, 75.10m, which would have secured a final spot at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, would have been Campbell’s personal best.

But on both 23 May and 5 June, the Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow thrower improved, throwing 76.97m in Loughborough and then 78.23m in Tatabánya.

Although he doesn’t have many big competitions under his belt, a bronze medal at the 2019 summer Universiade in Naples the previous highlight of his career, Campbell will be hoping to keep improving and deliver the goods in Tokyo.

You can read the rest of SWL’s Tokyo Olympics coverage, including the rest of our preview profiles here.

Featured image credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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