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Posts tagged ‘Olympics’

Olympic Dream

It is not often that I am overcome with emotion, but the experience I witnessed this Week through sport, led me to such pride. You all know of my continuous work and relationship with Stockport Metro. This, the most successful swimming club in UK history in terms of medals.

Pre-Christmas, 2015, we succeeded in a crowdfunding campaign for this same Club, to fund talented athletes to embark on a much needed training camp in South Africa, in preparation for Rio 2016 Olympic places. My Company, ACROBAT | FCSM, made a pledge in this Campaign and was promised a ‘reward’. The reward my Son, Kaya (aged 9), received was an hour’s personal training in the fabulous Grand Central Pool, home of Metro and operated by Life Leisure (with whom I was Non-Executive Director for nearly 12 years). Not only this but, a bespoke Stockport Metro’s “Wolfpack” T-Shirt (as worn by the squad), “SM” Swim Cap and entry to a dedicated Olympic Raffle.

On arrival the reward exceeded all expectations. Naturally, it was honouring the nature of our pledge – but the people that led this experience were impeccable. The athlete leading tuition and accompaniment in the pool was Harry Needs. He knows first-hand what it is like to train at the pinnacle of Olympic sport and has recently taken over as the Strength & Condition Coach of Stockport Metro High Performance Centre, inspiring the next generation. Harry is married to Olympian, Rebecca Adlington. Furthermore, the Coach who encouraged the activities throughout was the experienced Bulgarian, specialist, Alex Markov.

The tone and congeniality was flawless – such elite sports people offering time and genuine compassion to assist my Son, a good sportsman, but not a regular swimmer nor member of any swimming club (he did however learn to swim via Stockport Metro’s swimming lessons as do many a child from Stockport, Manchester and Tameside).

So the story of this ‘customer satisfaction’ has been written, completed by: an improving performance through expert guidance in a mere hour; the whole experience being videoed underwater using the incredible ‘fish eye’ technology (with a video to retain for lasting memories), Harry’s iphone took photos galore, and Rebecca is forwarding a signed photograph just for Kaya.

Could it be any better – I doubt it! My personal favourite stroke was when Harry and Kaya took turns doing the ‘dolphin’. One would be the arms up front, the other holding his feet, and being the flipper and kicking – a role that they reversed in the sequence.

Sport and life together as one. I hope that this short note helps a reader or two to think that they might like to have an introduction to the work of Stockport Metro – as a partner or sponsor – opportunities abound. Or if you know someone that could equally appreciate such a gift, in whole or part, just get in touch and we’ll see if we can help?

p.s Harry gave Kaya his, expensive looking, googles on departure…..and has since written to me saying: “Kaya was a pleasure to work with and I personally was inspired by the amount of progress he had in the hour. Such a charming lad with flawless listening skills.”

Make A Splash this Christmas

Just take a minute to consider how you can actually help a local club to try and achieve its dreams of making the Olympics in Rio next Year. Stockport Metro Swimming Club has just launched a fundraising appeal to help bring in the necessary money to take its talented and aspiring athletes to a dedicated training camp in the New Year.  The campaign is live NOW and will run until 3rd January 2016 only, by which stage the minimum target of £2,400 has to be pledged.

Coach, Richard Blackshaw said:

“This Appeal is to help our swimmers attend a 4 week training camp based in Pretoria, South Africa. This camp is a specific Altitude camp and will allow the swimmers to make a physiological adaptation that can make a huge difference at International levels where 100th of a second divides 1st from 4th. Training at altitude is impossible within our own Country hence the reason to travel to countries abroad.”

Stockport Metro has enjoyed a long history of podium success across all age groups at County, Regional, National and International levels, breaking countless British and Commonwealth records. Since moving to Grand Central Pools fourteen athletes have qualified for the Olympic Games, and the Club has produced four Olympic medallists, making it the most successful in British history.

As with all sports, reward is measured on performance and following the London 2012 Olympics the governing body suffered funding cuts, the cuts have been significant and since 2012 Stockport Metro funding has been cut until in 2015 we are no longer receiving any funding at all – which in the past has enabled our athletes to have the best environment and attend altitude camps.

All the successful athletes in its history attended altitude training camps during their 4 year Olympic cycles. Steve Parry and Graeme Smith both won bronze medals in Athens and Atlanta respectively. Adrian Turner was a semi-finalist in Atlanta. James Goddard, a Commonwealth Triple gold medallist, narrowly missed out on a medal in Athens.

Five Metro swimmers competed in Beijing: Keri-Anne Payne who took the silver in the inaugural 10K Marathon Open Water event, Cassie Patten took the bronze in the same event, Michael Rock, James Goddard and David Carry. A further five Metro swimmers competed in the London 2012 games, Keri-Anne Payne, Michael Rock, David Carry, James Goddard and Sophie Allen.

Stockport Metro’s key objective is to develop the next generation of World Class Athletes and give them the opportunity to be successful on the senior international stage. With the current group of swimmers coming through the pathway times are extremely exciting. If anyone watched the recent European Championships in Baku, seeing Holly Hibbott, aged only 15, becoming Champion in the 800 freestyle beating the best of Europe or Katie Matts winning a Bronze at the World Junior Championships in Singapore will have seen the potential and what an outstanding achievement it was, but the ambition, philosophy or track record is not to produce successful junior athletes but to produce successful senior athletes. Metro seek to achieve this with your help. Holly and Katie are but two of the talents among the British National Champions of 2015. Director of Performance, Sean Kelly, former Head Coach of the Stockport ITC, has been on the GB coaching team for the past two Olympic Games. He is one of the most successful coaches in British history in terms of podium success, and has twice been honoured with the GB Coach of the Year award.

The Fundraising Appeal is being conducted on the website link:

Donations are being accepted from as little as £1 so everyone can help the cause.  For donations, each person will receive a range of exciting rewards including: messages from our swimmers on social media, personalised letters from a swimmer, signed swimming caps, signed t-shirt, entry to a select raffle, personalised tuition with a member of the Stockport Metro Performance Squad, advert in the events programmes for a full twelve months or all of the above.

Please contribute whatever you can – or maybe make a donation instead of buying and sending out Christmas Cards this Year or you can even buy one of the superb offerings as a present. 

Let’s put Stockport on the map again in Rio.

Note to Editor:

  1. Photo of Fundraising Appeal website at Sponsorise.Me (web site address: enclosed)
  2. More information: Julie Bennett, Swimming Development Manager 07919 004070
  3. Anyone interested in sponsoring Stockport Metro can contact

Blade runner

Not ‘football’, not ‘finance’ (maybe?) but certainly adored by ‘fans’ worldwide.  An athlete’s story brings a change in my outlook. 

Oscar Pistorious’ arrest for an alleged murder of his girlfriend remains a haunting prospect for all concerned. The depression and mental health issues witnessed in football, recently with Collymore and Speed, has increased an awareness in symptoms and side-effects.  Many cannot appreciate the pressures associated with expectation and the constant focus in the public eye.  Could this have broken the Legend on blades?  There were signs of it getting too much when losing to a rival in London 2012.

M-Net, a South African TV Station has withdrawn all its brand association with Pistorious. Not that his wallet will be hit or needed in the place he may be destined to train in.  Not surprisingly, his agent proclaims business as usual: “All sponsors are still on board, and they have given us their commitment towards Oscar, based on the relationships that they have formed with him over the past years,” said Peet van Zyl, who represents the double-amputee. “They are quite happy to allow the legal process to take its course before they make any other further and formal announcements on it.”  This unlike the parallel disdain of sponsors of cyclist, Lance Armstrong, that are now suing for damages and return of their investments. 

Pistorious’ sponsors include Nike and Oakley, neither of which were available for comment when contacted by the Associated Press, though are reportedly distancing themselves from any association.  Of course, these events are exceptional but it does bring fresh debate to the pros and cons of sportsperson’s endorsement.


Silly burgers

Incredibly, those who have nothing better to do are bleating about the disappointment in the amount of commercialisation associated with the London 2012 Olympic Games.

As we stared, the whole family, and watched the Torch travelling through Stockport, we were witnessing an Event of such magnitude unlikely to ever happen in my lifetime.  Yes, around me, even on that day the parading lorries from the likes of Coca Cola were subject to the odd quip about how inappropriate, but commercial marketing dictates that we need such sponsors.

Without this, these major events will be purely a drain on resources and certainly not be financially viable. I personally, like the way that Richard Pound, longtime IOC Committee Member and Author to Inside the Olympics: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Politics, the Scandals and the Glory of the Games” recounts the fact that all sporting stadia have perimeter advertising, yet at the Olympics advertising in venue is non-existent and athletes are not allowed to promote any products (hence, term ambush when they do).  In effect, the counter-debate is that the Olympics is the least advertising, invasive spectacle in sports!

McDonald’s came in for some early stick on the appropriateness or otherwise of its association with the Games.  Yesterday’s statement by Usain Bolt after his Gold Medal in 100M made me smile, on being asked about this pre-run preparation he retorted “I had a McDonald’s for breakfast”.