Get to know the athletes laying it all on the line in their SunGods next month...
With less than a month to go, this is an Olympic year you won’t want to miss! With the event postponed last year, athletes have had another year to train and prepare and they are hungrier than ever to outperform the competition. If one thing is certain, the bar will be raised, and records will be set. Here are the SunGod athletes you’ll want to be watching at Tokyo 2020ne:
Blaine Hunt - track cycling, Time Trial and Team Sprint (PARA)
Representing: Great Britain
Bio: I'm a para cyclist from London, my speciality events are the 1km Time Trial and the Team Sprint.
Most excited for: The possibility of competing at a global event after the past 18 months we’ve all had! It will be interesting to see who has been able to keep motivation through lockdowns and facility closures, I think a lot of Paralympic records will be broken!
Covid has taught me: That it's possible to achieve great things with minimal resources available to you. During the lockdowns I wasn't part of the GB program, I was working full time throughout and didn't have access to a gym or velodrome to train. But, with the help of some home weights and turbo trainer, I managed to shave 1 second off my time!
How I get in the zone: I like to leave it as close to race time as possible so I can get in, get sorted and get to the race line with no waiting around. That way I don't have to think about it too much and it's just a sequence of events with little time to worry about anything else.
Goal: When it's all over I want to leave a legacy, I want for someone to say they saw me compete and I inspired them to get on a bike and start racing.
Gillian SANDERS – Triathlon and mixed team relay
Representing: South Africa
Bio: Sport and the outdoors have been a big part of my life since I was a child and I'm very competitive by nature. It was always a childhood dream to compete at this level and I feel very lucky to have achieved this goal - I'm pumped to get to the start line!
Most excited for: The buzz of racing the best athletes in the world and that feeling of accomplishment after a good result.
Covid has taught me: To be more present and focus on what I can control. I joined a group of open water swimmers in the Thames last summer when all the pools were closed and I think this actually improved my swimming! I would never have set foot in the Thames river had it not been for Covid and I am so glad that I did!
How I get in the zone: Being mindful and present and focussing on myself and not others.
Goal: It is about so much more than the medals, it's about the friendships, challenges and setbacks along the way. I've shared the journey with many people, but in particular my husband Mark and my coach James. I couldn't have asked for 2 better people to share this journey with!
Maeve Plouffe - Cycling, Track Teams Pursuit
Bio: I came to cycling through a talent ID programme, but cycling is so much more than a sport to me! It’s a means to getting out and exploring, plus I love the pure physical aspect and buzz of track racing – you against the clock!
Most excited for: This is something I’ve been dreaming of since I was young, for as long as I can remember. I remember getting up to watch the swimming in 2008, I’ve always been so intrigued and it’s something I’ve wanted for so long.
Covid has taught me: Perspective. As a young athlete, I could have been of the mindset that my opportunity had been ripped from me and everything I’d put into it, but I learnt to take the good out of the situation. I gained a whole extra year of progress, and to me that’s huge!
How I get in the zone: An hour before I leave, I sit down with my music and do my make-up perfectly. I know it’s a little odd but it’s my ritual and it works to get me in the zone. As soon as I’m on the track, it’s full focus. I warm up and start visualising the race and the outcome.
Goal: One thing that really motivates me is being a role model for young athletes, young girls in particular. Recently a young athlete approached me at a track race, she had a photo that we took together a year ago and said that I had inspired her to keep riding. If I can inspire one girl to stay on her bike, that’s a massive achievement in itself.
Lobke Berkhout and Afrodite Zegers – 470 Class Sailing
Bio: We started sailing together at the end of 2018, since then we have become bronze European medallists in 2019 and vice World Champions 2021.
Most excited for: We love the weather conditions in Enoshima, the sailing venue. We’re expecting a good sea breeze and very big Pacific waves! We also love Japan, it’s a unique place and the people are extremely polite and friendly!
Covid has taught us: To stay flexible and adapt in order to come up with solutions to be able to keep on training despite restrictions. We’ve also learned that sticking together and staying close to each other makes us a better team!
How we get in the zone: On the morning of a competition, we’ll meditate about the day and our goals. We have a specific time where we come together in order to discuss the day and what our priorities are.
Goal: A medal would be awesome but we just want to be able to look back and know that we gave it our all!
Alistair Donohoe - Men’s Individual Pursuit, Road Race AND Road Time Trial (PARA)
Bio: I’ve been cycling since I was 15 and since then it’s all I’ve wanted to do. Regardless of whether I could call it a career, it’s just something I’m really passionate about!
Most excited for: I feel more prepared than I was for Rio and more driven than ever to get that gold medal. It’s such an amazing feeling representing your country!
Covid has taught me: Patience and perspective. It gave me more time and a bigger opportunity to better myself and better prepare. I wasn’t stressed out, it’s just like getting an extension on a test!
How I get in the zone: I do as little as I can on comp morning but I have my usual coffee to keep my nervous energy down! When I arrive at the comp venue, I switch off all communication and get in the zone.
Goal: I’d love if once this is all said and done, a child who didn’t think sport was for them or didn’t think they had the ability, saw us and realised it was something that they could actually do!
ollie wood - cycling, team pursuit
Representing: Great Britain
Bio: I'm a British cyclist, currently riding for UCI Continental team Canyon dhb SunGod. Tokyo will be my first Olympics!
Most excited for: I have been to Japan before and loved it, so I am excited to go back! It may not be quite the same with Covid restrictions but I'll try to take it in as much as possible!
Covid has taught me: It has given us time to get used to new equipment and drive on with training but I guess everyone has had the same so we'll see how it plays out!
How I get in the zone: I don't really have many methods of getting ready. I like to have plenty of time so nothing is rushed but that's about it, no superstitions here!
Goal: I hope I'll be on the plane home with a medal but if that doesn't happen, hopefully I will have gained a lot from just the process of it all.
The stage is set. We’re stoked for all of our athletes for what they have achieved to reach this point and wish them all the very best of luck - Tokyo 2020ne, let’s be having you!