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13 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > People > Profiles > An Olympian effort from our local stars

Beijing 2008 Olympics

Countdown to Beijing!

An Olympian effort from our local stars

Find out more about the local athletes from Staffordshire and south Cheshire who competed for medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Jessica Sylvester

Name:  Jessica Sylvester

Age: 22

Born: Newcastle-under-Lyme

Event:  Swimming - 4x100m Freestyle Relay

Jessica was not always a swimmer, during her school years at Westwood High in Leek she was interested in football and cricket.  She went on to represent Staffordshire at Football and also played Cricket in a boys side.

She is a student of Nottingham University where she studies Biochemistry.  She is currently taking a year out to focus on this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.  The swimmer is also based in Nottingham where she trains at the Nova Centurion Club and is coached by Bill Furniss.

Since then her swimming career has taken over and she swam for the Staffordshire Amateur Swimming Association, where she still holds a number of records in the short course Butterfly and Individual Medley.  She was involved in helping Great Britain reach the finals of the European Championships in 2006 but was unfortunate not to make the final team.  Her best results were 4th in the 100m freestyle and 5th in the 50m butterfly at the British Championships in Sheffield earlier this year. 

Jessica and her team mates, Francesca Halsall, Caitlin McClatchey, and Melanie Marshall finished seventh in the 4x100m freestyle final in Beijing - but did set a new national record in the process.

Alex Nelson

Name:  Alex Nelson

Age:  20

Born:  Stoke-on-Trent

Event:  Athletics - 200m

Alex has long been an athlete of great potential and Beijing 2008 is his chance to showcase his immense talent.  He certainly seems to be peaking at the right time after running a personal best time of 20.49 seconds in the 200m at the British Olympic Trials and reaching the qualifying standard, a feat he had been trying to achieve for 18 months.

The work he has been doing with coaches Christopher Brackstone and Graham Knight seems to be paying off as he is Britain's no.1 this year ahead of established sprinter Marlon Devonish.  His time at the trials means only 10 men eligible for the olympics this year have run faster than Alex giving him a great oppurtunity to reach his potential on the biggest stage of all.

Alex has already achieved great things in his young career.  In 2005 he claimed silver in the 100m at the World Youth Championships despite being the favourite.  The disappointment has driven him on to better things as he claimed three gold medals in 2007 at the European U20 Championships and two AAA Championships, all in the 200m.

Alex's athletic inspirations are Maurice Greene and his younger sister Ashlee who is also competing in Beijing 2008.

Alex had to withdraw from the heats because of a hamstring injury.

Ashlee Nelson

Name:  Ashlee Nelson

Age: 17

Born:  Stoke-on-Trent

Event:  Athletics - 4x100m relay

Ashlee Nelson is the sister of fellow British sprint hopeful Alex.  Their Father Steve Nelson is an ex professional footballer who was once on the books of Stoke City and Ashlee is hoping to carry on the rich sporting traditions of the family.  Aside from sprinting she is also has an interest in dancing and music.

In 2007 Ashlee was the youngest athlete to be on the UK Athletics World Class Programme and she also won a bronze medal at the World Youth Championships and competed in the National Championships.  Between 2004-2006 she won gold at the English Schools Championships and as a 14 year old broke the 100m European School girl record previously held by Katherine Merry.

For someone so young she possesses incredible talent and speed her personal best is 11.56 seconds over 100m and she is certainly one to watch in the 4x100m relay.

Ashlee was not in the final team selection

Steve Lewis

Name:  Steve Lewis

Age:  22

Born:  Stoke-on-Trent

Event:  Athletics - Pole Vault

Steve Lewis started out Pole Vaulting when he was 13 years old as he thought it looked interesting and fun.  Far from the simple surroundings of Northwood Stadium, Steve will be competing against the World's finest athletes in Beijing's National Stadium in front of 100,000 people.

Steve will have high hopes for the Olympics after winning a bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games.  He also won a bronze medal in the World Youth Championships in 2003.  Steve finished 7th in the European U23 Championships last year.  His personal best is 5.61 metres outdoors compared to 5.70 metres indoors.

Steve has some very strange superstitions he likes to talk to his poles before competition to make sure there on good terms before an event! His personal heroes are Muhammad Ali and Jimi Hendrix due to his keen interest in the electric guitar.

Disappointingly, Steve failed all three attempts at his opening height of 5.45m - well short of his personal best of 5.71m – and bowed out in the early stages of qualifying

Tracey Hallam

Name:  Tracey Hallam

Age: 33

Born:  Burton-on-Trent

Event:  Badminton

Tracey is the only local Olympian with previous Olympic experience.  The badminton player competed for Great Britain in Athens 2004 when she reached the quarter finals of the Ladies Singles event and she will no doubt be hoping to get amongst the medals in Beijing.

The left-handed Tracey has tasted Gold before in the 2006 Commonwealth Games where she won the Ladies Singles Final in Melbourne.  She reached the quarter finals of the World Championship in 2007 and is a three time National Champion.  The current world no.14 first represented England against China in 1997.

Tracey fell to Germany's Huaiwen Xu in the last 16

Beth Rodford

Name:  Beth Rodford

Age: 25

Born:  Burton-on-Trent

Event:  Rowing - Eights

Beth started rowing in 1995 and had quite a meteoric rise to the top as she represented Great Britain as a junior in the World Junior Championships in 1999 winning bronze in the coxless fours.

In an attempt to further her rowing career she moved to America in 2001 and spent a year rowing at Washington State University before moving back to London to study Sports Science at Brunel University.  These experiences have seemingly helped Beth as she has gone on to represent Great Britain at senior level.

She is a former World U23 Champion and part of the eight in the 2007 World Cup where the team always reached the 'A' Final finishing in the silver medal position, 4th, and 5th places.  Beth was again present at this year's World Cup meet where the team again reached the 'A' Finals taking bronze, 5th and 6th positions and Beth and the team will be hoping for medals at the Olympic Games.

With Beth in the team, Great Britain came a creditable fifth, a good result after other team-members Natasha Howard and Alison Knowles had pulled out with illness

Anna Bebington

Name:  Anna Bebington

Age:  25

Born:  Leek

Event:  Rowing - Double Sculls

Anna is a product of the World Class Start Programme and her career is certainly progressing well considering she only started rowing in 2001 as a way to get fit. Anna is a former U23 Champion and won a bronze medal in the World Championships in Munich in the Double Sculls with her partner Elise Laverick.

Anna raced again with Laverick in the 2008 World Cup Series where they finished 5th in the double sculls however they came 1st in the 2nd and 3rd regatta.  They will compete together in Beijing and once again hope to be amongst the medals.

Bronze Medal.   Britain's first rowing medal of the Games came thanks to Anna and team-mate Elise Laverick during a medals rush on what was described as the greatest weekend in British Olympic history

Beth Tweddle

Name:  Beth Tweddle

Age:  23

Born:  Johannesburg

Event:  Gymnastics

Beth is the most successful British Gymnast of all time.  She has won everything there is to win in the world of Gymnastics except for one thing... Olympic Gold!  This is something Beth will surely be looking to amend in Beijing this year where she will go into her event the asymmetric bars as one of the favourites to take the crown.

Beth has already had an incredible career for someone so young and Beijing 2008 is going to be her last major event.  She has other interests outside of Gymnastics that she would like to pursue for instance she completed a degree in Sports Science in 2007 and is currently studying sports massage as well as training for the Olympics.

She has won so much already in her career, when she was just 14 years old she was the British Vice Champion and a year later in 2000 she became Commonwealth Youth Champion.  It was apparent that Beth was a special talent and in 2002 she became the first British woman to get a medal in a major tournament as she won bronze at the European Championships and went on to the World Championships and finished fourth resulting in her winning British Young Sports Personality of the year. 

Her career since then has soared as she picked up World Championship Bronze in 2003 and 2005 as well as Gold medals in two World Cup events.  In 2006 she won gold at the World Championships the first British Gymnast to do so and if she were to win Olympic Gold it would round off a fine career and leave Beth as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time.

Beth went for broke in the uneven bars final with a very difficult routine but had to settle for fourth with a score of 16.625, just 0.025 points behind China's Yang Yilin, who took the bronze medal.

Matt Langridge

Name: Matthew Langridge

Age:  25.

Born:  Crewe.

Event:  Rowing (eights).

Matthew was born in Crewe and learnt his trade at the Northwich Rowing Club, he now lives in Henley on Thames.  He is a World Junior Single Champion and represented Great Britain at the Athens Olympics in 2004.  He moved on to pairs rowing and this paid dividends for him as he picked up bronze in the World Championships and a goal in the World Cup series both taking place in 2007.

However in 2008 he began racing in the eights and in the World Cup series ended up finishing in 1st, 2nd and 3rd and because of this and despite his obvious versatility he has been selected in the eights for the Beijing Olympics where the team are in with a real chance of picking up a medal.

Silver Medal. Matthew and crew-mates Tom Stallard, Tom Lucy, Richard Egington, Josh West, Alastair Heathcote, Matt Langridge, Colin Smith and cox Acer Nethercott were clearly dissatisfied as they accepted their silvers - they felt they should have had gold!

Kate Dennison

Name: Kate Dennison

Age:  24.

Born:  Durban, South Africa.

Event:  Pole Vault.

Kate was a former gymnast coming 4th in the British Championships before she tried her hand at pole vault in 2000.  She was born in South Africa before moving to Alsager when she was young.  She took to Pole Vault like a duck to water as she became the first British junior to vault over 4 metres at the World Junior Championships in 2002.

Kate's best results include finishing 7th in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006 and she has also tasted gold when she triumphed at the UK Championships in Manchester last year.  She also finished 29th at last year's World Championships in Osaka.  Kate also studied for a degree in Psychology at Staffordshire University and is a qualified gym instructor.

Kate was not able to reach the final

Charlotte Craddock

Name:  Charlotte Craddock.

Age:  17.

Born:  Wolverhampton.

Event:  Hockey.

Charlotte was the youngest member of this year's Great Britain squad.  At the tender age of 17 she is also one of the youngest players to ever play hockey for Great Britain.  Charlotte was born and lives in Wolverhampton but plays and trains in Staffordshire.  The Cannock player took to hockey after seeing her dad playing the sport.

She has yet to make a senior appearance for England but on her Great Britain debut she scored in a 3-0 victory against Argentina.  In 2007 she won a Gold Medal with Great Britain at the Australian Olympic Youth Festival in which Charlotte scored against the host nation in the final to complete a 4-2 victory.

This is what Charlotte had to say upon hearing of her selection in the Olympic Squad.  "I'm still in shock about being selected, especially considering I suffered a setback in February with a stress fracture in my back."

Charlotte played brightly, being mostly used as a substitute in the tournament, though she was selected in the starting line-up against Japan.  Team GB however failed to get among the medals.

Shanaze Reade

Shanaze Reade © Emma Hardy Photographer

Name: Shanaze Reade

The young two-wheeling sensation from Crewe has suddenly found herself part of the cycling as well as BMX team.

Shanaze Reade crashed out in a dramatic women's BMX final to shatter her Olympic dream.

In a desperate bid for gold on the final bend, Shanaze attempted a risky manouevre which sent her sprawling from her bike and onto the track. 

Sadly, that meant she also lost the silver medal while French rider Anne-Caroline Chausson took the gold.

"I put everything into this and I couldn't have done any more," said a bitterly disappointed Reade afterwards.

"I've fallen off and got back up, I've fallen off and got back up. I gave it my heart and everything, but today it wasn't good enough."

"I dug deep and gave it the best shot I could but today it wasn't good enough," she said.

"I'm 19 and there is more to come from me as an athlete but at the moment I'm hurting - my back is sore and I think I have broken my hand."

last updated: 22/09/2008 at 11:11
created: 26/07/2008

Have Your Say

Send your 'Well Done!' messages to our athletes in Beijing

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Mrs. L.
well, i have to say: "Well done!"

geetika b
Ihave watched the olimpics but did not know about these people well done im in Atlanta Ga USA and very proud of you all ALMA GREEN Born in Tunstall

Ihave watched the olimpics but did not know about these people well done im in Atlanta Ga USA and very proud of you all ALMA GREEN Born in Tunstall

Carol Miles
To Steve Lewis - Wishing you the best of luck from Mrs Miles Steve's nursery teacher (Milton Primary) Always following your achievements. You are an inspiration to our children.I'm proud to have been part of your life

Chris Gumbley
Anna Bebbington - still reeling after you humiliated us at arm wrestling! Show them all how to row in China. Good Luck! Chris and Dan

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