Having travelled the length and breadth of the UK throughout January in search of ‘tall and talented’ undiscovered potential, the UK Talent Team, along with Olympic coaches from GB Rowing and British Basketball, are now undertaking the difficult task of making selections for phase two of the Talent 2016: Tall and Talented programme.
Talent 2016: Tall and Talented was launched in October last year, in a bid to identify individuals from the British public, aged 15 to 22, over 180cm (female) or 190cm (male) tall, with the potential to be developed in time for Olympic glory at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. While height is no guarantee of success in the two targeted sports of rowing and basketball, it is certainly a good place to start when trawling the nation for otherwise hidden athletic potential.
1500 applications were received for the initiative, and throughout January over 750 athletes attended and completed a phase one talent assessment in Bath, Gateshead, Loughborough, Stirling or London. Whilst the athletes were certainly tall (the tallest male and female athletes tested were 210cm and 194cm, respectively), the testing team also witnessed some outstanding displays of athleticism and determination, with several new testing records being set.
Olympic medallists and Talent 2016: Tall and Talented ambassadors Katherine Grainger and Andy Hodge were on hand at the London assessment event to share their Olympic experiences with the 2016 hopefuls.
Katherine Grainger said: “The athletes here today have a fantastic opportunity ahead of them. I started rowing by chance; someone at university spotted me because I was tall and persuaded me to join the rowing club. Tall and Talented is proactively finding athletes with the potential to achieve in rowing and basketball, which is great.
“The Olympic journey is definitely challenging but the buzz of competing and winning medals for your country is an amazing experience and somebody here today maybe taking the first step on that journey.”
Steve Gunn, the GB Rowing Team's Start Manager, said: "We've been delighted with the phase one testing, it has provided us with the opportunity to test hundreds of athletes we may otherwise never have come across. The stadard has been high and we believe we have identified some exciting prospects for 2016."
“The athletes here today have a fantastic opportunity ahead of them." Katherine Grainger
Now that phase one has drawn to a close, the coaches and talent identification scientists are in the process of analysing each athlete’s testing data (collected from anthropometric, strength, endurance, power and agility tests) and sporting background, and benchmarking against data collected from successful Olympians over many years.
Natalie Dunman, lead Talent Identification Scientist for Tall and Talented, said: “Talent identification is complex, but we use all of the data and information available to us, including each athlete’s testing data and sporting history, along with the coaches’ expert opinions, to piece together a profile of each individual and select the applicants with the most potential to thrive in a world class training environment.
“Those that progress to phase two will still have a long way to go, with plenty more testing and trialling, but for the lucky few this could be the start of their journey towards success in 2016.”
The wait is nearly over for the 750-plus Olympic hopefuls, who will find out before 1 March whether they are being invited back for sports specific testing with either GB Rowing or British Basketball.
Meanwhile, the Talent 2012: Fighting Chance and Paralympic Potential initiatives are currently still in the phase one testing phase. Updates on both of these exciting new programmes to find athletes capable of representing Great Britain in just over two years time at the Olympics and Paralympics right here in London will follow in the coming weeks.