Commonwealth Games: Six Sky Academy Sports Scholars set for Glasgow
By Sam Drury - Follow on Twitter
Last Updated: 11/07/14 8:52am
The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow begin in just two weeks with a total of six Sky Academy Sports Scholars in line to compete.
The six in question are middleweight boxer Savannah Marshall will be road cyclist Lucy Garner, gymnast Sam Oldham, 800m runner Jessica Judd, medley swimmer Siobhan-Marie O’Connor and Paralympic long-jumper Olivia Breen.
With the Games now little more than a month away, we look at their chances of success and the main challenges facing them in Scotland.
Olivia Breen – Athletics (long jump) – Wales
Of the six Sports Scholars competing in Glasgow, Breen is the only one who won't be wearing England colours having chosen to represent Wales, whom she qualifies for through her mother.
Despite the fact she will not turn 18 until three days into the Games, this will be Breen's fourth major championships. Having burst onto the scene shortly before the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the Portsmouth-born athlete won two bronze medals at the European Championships in the T38 100m and 200m and was part of the GB team to take 4x100m bronze at the Paralympics, as well as having made two finals at the IPC World Championships last year.
While also continuing to compete as a sprinter and having set a personal best this season, it is a new event for her - the long jump - in which Breen will take part in Glasgow. Considering that this is her first season doing the long jump it would be a huge ask for her to challenge for a medal but with PB's being achieved almost every time she competes, it would be foolish to write her off just yet.
She says: “I can’t wait, I feel really privileged to be able to represent Wales.”
Lucy Garner – Road cyclist – England
A double junior world road race champion, Lucy Garner stepped up to the senior peleton in 2013 and little over a year later is gaining results that are the envy of many more established riders.
So far this season the 19-year-old from Leicestershire has appeared on the podium seven times, including one race win. One of those top three finishes came on stage four of the Women's Tour of Britain, an event in which Garner finished as the best-placed British rider.
With Lizzie Armitstead almost certain to lead the team in Glasgow, the Sky Academy Sports Scholar is set for a supporting role but, as a formidable sprinter herself, if Garner is in the running as the line approaches, anything is possible.
She says: "I'm thrilled, I'm so excited to be part of the England team. I'm really pleased with how my season has gone and I hope that we can play a big part in Team England's success."
Jessica Judd – Athletics (800m) – England
One of the rising stars of British athletics, Jessica Judd came to the fore last summer with impressive victories in the European Team Championships and the Birmingham Diamond League meet.
A disappointing exit in the heats of the World Championships followed, and injuries during the winter threatened to hamper her progress. However, the 19-year-old and her coach Rob Denmark continued to put in the hard yards and their determination was rewarded as Judd set a personal best of 1:59.77 at the Diamond League meeting in Oslo, just her second race back from injury, to finish third.
It was the second time Judd had gone under the two-minute barrier and her time was the fastest by a British athlete this year. The competition in the 800m will be fierce in Glasgow but the teenager has shown she can mix it with the best and while a medal may be a tough ask this time around, a place in the final is a real possibility with the promise of more to come.
She says: “I’m really happy to have made the squad, especially after the injury I had because I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen. Now I’m very excited to go to a home Commonwealth Games – it’s going to be brilliant.”
Savannah Marshall – Boxing (75kg) – England
The Hartlepool middleweight is the reigning world champion and will defend her title later this year in South Korea. As such she will go to Glasgow as one of the favourites to take home the gold.
However, having had shoulder surgery over the winter that forced her to miss last month's European Championships, Marshall faces a race against time to be fully fit. The signs are good in that she is back in training and sparring, and following a surprise quarter-final exit at the Olympic Games in London two years ago, Marshall will be more determined than ever to make amends.
If Marshall is at the top of her game it will be hard for anyone to stop her. Things are never as easy as that in a major championship and her fitness remains a concern but, if 100% fit, the 22-year-old looks sure to be there or thereabouts when the medals are handed out.
She says: “I’m looking at it as a bit like London, I know it won’t be quite as big, but I’ve got a few demons from London and I’m hoping to get shot of them."
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor – Swimming – England
A member of the GB team at the Olympics in 2012, Siobhan-Marie O'Connor has come on immeasurably since then and even in the past six months she appears to have found a higher level.
Since picking up a silver and a bronze medal at the European Short Course Championships at the end of 2013, O'Connor has hit a rich vein of form winning medals aplenty and setting new personal bests at almost every competition she has entered, including a hat-trick of gold medals in the recent British Gas International Meet in Manchester.
The 18-year-old from Bath has been showcasing her talent in a number of disciplines but it is the 200m individual medley where she really excels. Indeed, she set a championship record and another personal best of 2:09.63 at the Mare Nostrum Tour in Barcelona in June. That it was the second fastest time in the world this year shows that she will be a real medal contender in Glasgow.
She says: "Every four years is building towards the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games is a big marker halfway to the Olympics. I want to give myself the best chance of swimming as well as I can and my dream since I was little has always been to win a medal."
Sam Oldham – Gymnastics – England
An Olympic bronze medallist already, and with consecutive European high bar silver medals to his name, Sam Oldham will be hoping to add a Commonwealth Games medal to his collection.
The 21-year-old Nottingham gymnast has had a solid season so far and believes he is "on par" with where he would have liked to be at this stage in the Olympic cycle. High bar gold in the British Championships in Liverpool earlier in the year has arguably been the highlight of his 2014, alongside his silver on the same apparatus in the European Championships.
With a strong competition expected between the English and Scottish teams in particular, Oldham will need to be at his best to compete for an all-around medal. However, having only narrowly missed out in the British Championships he will be confident of making the final step onto the podium, while on the high bar he must be considered one of the real favourites for the gold.
He says: "I missed out on the last Commonwealth Games so this will give me a chance to go out and put in a great performance in front of a home crowd. Something I really want to do is challenge for a medal as an all-arounder."