Four-time Olympic medallist Christine Ohuruogu has called on the nation to get behind their favourite National Lottery-funded Team GB performer from the Tokyo Olympic Games and pick a winner for the National Lottery Olympian of the Year award.
The 2008 Beijing Olympic 400m champion this week announced a roll call of Tokyo Olympic royalty as Laura Kenny, Jason Kenny, Adam Peaty, Tom Daley and Matty Lee, Charlotte Worthington, Max Whitlock, Duncan Scott, Beth Shriever, Galal Yafai and Lauren Price were short-listed for the top gong.
The National Lottery Olympian of the Year category was created to recognise elite sport through the awards and to showcase the impact that National Lottery funding has on Team GB athletes.
It was another hugely successful Olympics for Britain, with the team matching their total from London 2012, winning 65 medals, and finishing fourth in the medal table in Tokyo.
And according to Ohuruogu, considering the unique circumstances surrounding Tokyo 2020 caused by the pandemic, it was a special achievement from Team GB.
“I think they did really well, we have to put it into context with the year all the athletes had. It has been really difficult for them,” said the former 400m runner.
“My younger sister also competes and I was hearing the stories of how some athletes were struggling to have a venue to train at.
“When you look at those circumstances, you feel incredibly proud of what our British athletes have been able to accomplish.
“It is really difficult for one to stand out above the rest, just because of the different factors you can consider.
“There will be one winner [of the award], and they will be deserving, but I think each athletes own personal story will chime with different people for different reasons.
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“That is why it is exciting to see who comes out on top. But I think the root of this award is to recognise those athletes who do such a great job.
“The ten on the shortlist are all world-beaters, they are all the very best at what they do. It is a great opportunity to celebrate those guys.”
The National Lottery funds over 1,000 elite athletes, on UK Sport’s World Class Programme. It allowed athletes like Christine, now retired, to train full time during her career, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science, and medical support.
No one supports our athletes more than National Lottery players, who raise around £36 million each week for good causes.
Ohuruogu said that the journeys of returning Olympic medallists on the shortlist, such as breaststroke king Adam Peaty, gymnast and three-time gold medallist Max Whitlock, particularly stood out to her.
The Londoner herself knew what was needed to succeed over multiple Games, following her gold and bronze from Beijing, with a silver at London 2012 and a bronze in Rio four years later.
She added: “I am interested in the mind-set of those athletes who are able to return to Olympic glory cycle after cycle, because it is incredibly difficult to do.
“It is one thing winning, but to stay on the top and keep winning is very difficult. I know how hard it is, normally you are four years older, this time it was five. Those factors make it hard.
“You always have to go through a lot just to get to an Olympics. So, I maybe lean more towards those older, more experienced athletes, only because I know how hard it is.
“But we should never forget winning one Olympic gold takes a huge amount. Look at the boxers Galal Yafai and Lauren Price, who are on the shortlist, this was their first games. So, to get to the pinnacle without that experience is exceptionally difficult.”
Other first-time Olympic champions on the shortlist for the award, are BMX cyclists Charlotte Worthington and Beth Shriever, as are diving partners Tom Daley and Matty Lee, who are jointly nominated after taking gold in the 10m synchro diving.
The public can vote for the National Lottery Olympian of the Year from now, until 5pm on August 23 when voting closes.
It was a difficult task to whittle the shortlist down to just ten, and Ohuruogu still isn’t yet sure on who she will be voting for.
“I really can’t pick just one”, she laughed.
“Everyone on the shortlist has such a beautiful story. I do love the power couple of Laura and Jason (Kenny) though, particularly with Laura coming back after having a baby as well.
“But there are amazing stories everywhere, look at Duncan Scott winning four medals in one game. I know how hard it is just to win one, to win four is incredible.
“Lauren Price is another great story; her sporting background is something else.
“It is hard to narrow it down, but luckily everyone voting has some time.”
Tokyo also marked the first TeamGB Athletics squad at an Olympics without Ohuruogu, since Sydney 2000, after she retired at the end of 2017.
The former track-and-field star admitted it felt odd not to be competing.
She added: “It was very strange. I started the athletics, thinking ‘this will be fine’, then you are watching and thinking ‘their kit looks so good, why didn’t we have kit as good as that?’
“Then I say, ‘oh I wish I was there; I wonder what it is like’, but at the same time if you want all that, then you have to go and compete.
“I know I don’t want to compete anymore. I just miss having a nice kit!”
Choose your National Lottery Olympian of the Year by checking out the shortlist and voting either on Twitter @lottogoodcauses or on www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards – entries must be received by 5pm on 23rd August 2021