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Cornish sports stars play their part in GB success

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: December 28, 2012

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2012 – the greatest year in Great British sporting history?

Perhaps – certainly in our lifetime. Are we ever likely to witness such excitement and celebration following the achievements of this country's sportsmen and women?

That, of course, was thanks, in no small part, to the heroic performances of Team GB at this summer's Olympics and Paralympics in London.

It's now more than seven years since the capital was chosen as host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

And wasn't it worth that wait?

The country united in celebration as Great Britain's Olympians claimed 65 medals, 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze.

It didn't end there either, as Team GB's Paralympians fittingly followed suit with 120 medals, 18 more than in Beijing four years ago.

From the moment the Olympic Torch landed in Land's End on Saturday, May 19, 2012, Great Britain's love affair with the Olympics had begun.

This was also the beginning of something special for Cornwall as Falmouth sailor Ben Ainslie, with the world watching, set off on the very first leg of the Olympic Torch.

Ainslie would later come to prominence again when he became the most successful sailor in history after winning a record fourth gold medal at this summer's Olympics.

After golds in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, and a silver in Atlanta in 1996, the 35-year-old has now won more Olympic medals than any other sailor.

His now joins an illustrious list of Great British sportsmen.

Ainslie is fourth in Britain's all-time individual medallist's list, behind Sir Chris Hoy (cycling; six gold, one silver), Sir Steve Redgrave (rowing; five gold, one bronze) and Bradley Wiggins (cycling; four gold, one silver, two bronze).

Gifted

The former Truro School pupil has been tipped for a knighthood in the new year and few would be more deserving than one of Cornwall's most gifted, sporting ambassadors.

Ainslie wasn't the only Olympian flying the flag for Kernow this summer.

Helen Glover, from Penzance, only started rowing four years ago through the 'Sporting Giants' scheme.

And after a forming a formidable partnership with Heather Stanning in the women's coxless pairs, winning last year's World Championships in Slovenia, Glover's remarkable fairytale story ended with this summer's stunning gold medal win at Eton Dorney.

Another honour bestowed on Cornwall was that this was Great Britain's first gold medal at the Games and the first ever Olympic gold medal for British women's rowing.

The county also featured heavily in fencing, with Truro Fencing Club's James Honeybone, Louise Bond-Williams and Sophie Williams competing at the magnificent ExCel Arena in London.

All three, who, incidentally, were also coached by Truro Fencing Club's Jon Salfield suffered early exits, but it was an experience none of them will forget, and for younger members Honeybone and Williams, preparation for Rio 2016 are already well under way.

Elsewhere, cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel, who lives in Bodmin, was aiming to build on her silver medal at the Beijing Olympics.

But a controversial decision by coach Shane Sutton to leave her out of the three team pursuit races meant she missed out on a gold medal, which was won by Team GB team-mates Dani King, Laura Trott and Jo Rowsell.

It left a bitter taste for the 38-year-old, following months of preparation, in what was her last shot at Olympics glory.

Completing Cornwall's magnificent seven Olympians was Wadebridge's Annie Vernon, competing in rowing.

But after winning a silver medal in Beijing, there was to be no repeat in front of her home crowd, as the 30-year-old reached the A final of the women's eight, finishing fifth.

Great Britain's gold rush continued in the Paralympics, with St Stephen's swimmer Jonathan Fox contributing to Team GB's medal haul with gold in the 100m Backstroke.

The 21-year-old, after claiming silver in the same event in Beijing, went one better this summer, much to the delight of home fans in the stunning Aquatics Centre.

Collection

Fellow swimmer Matt Whorwood, from Newquay, four years after winning two bronze medals, added to his collection with another bronze in the 400m Freestyle.

Taking part in his first ever Paralympics, Cubert's Ben Procter missed out on a medal finish, but at 22 years old, the Cornishman certainly has time on his side. He finished fifth in the 100m Backstroke and eighth in the 200m Freestyle.

Elsewhere, Torpoint's David Wetherill, who also appeared in Beijing, reached the preliminary rounds in table tennis, while Truro's Ben Hall, who only started playing sitting volleyball three years ago, finished eighth.

The achievements of all 12 of Cornwall's talented athletes have been quite remarkable. Each and everyone of them have done the county proud.

Roll on 2016.

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