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Staffordshire Olympic hopefuls for London 2012

Ashlee Nelson
Ashlee Nelson is one of Staffordshire's hopes for a medal at the 2012 Olympics

Alex Nelson
Alex Nelson

Born: Stoke-on-Trent

Event: Athletics - Sprinting

Alex Nelson from Birches Head in Stoke on Trent is one of Britain's best sprint medal hopes for the 2010 Olympics.

He qualified for the Beijing Olympics but missed out on running in the 200 metres and the relay after picking up a hamstring injury in training.

He has a personal best of 10.31 in 100 metres and 20.49 in 200 metres, and is no stranger to winning having 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.

2010 update: Recently signed 5-year sponsorship deal with local businessman Mo Chaudry. Torn ligament in his knee and missed most of last year.

Ashlee Nelson
Ashlee Nelson

Born: Stoke-on-Trent

Event: Athletics - Sprinting

Ashlee Nelson is the sister of fellow British sprint hopeful Alex. Their dad Steve Nelson is an ex professional footballer who was once on the books of Stoke City.

In 2007 Ashlee was the youngest athlete to be on the UK Athletics World Class Programme.

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.

Her personal best is 11.56 seconds over 100m and she is certainly one to watch in the 4x100m relay.

For someone so young she possesses incredible talent and speed which is probably why sports company Nike have now taken her on their roster.

2010 update: Relocated to London. Set new Personal Best of 11.36. Ranked 2nd in British Sprint Rankings.

Shanaze Reade
Shanaze Reade

Born: Crewe

Event: BMX / Cycling

Crewe's Shanaze Reade initially wanted to be a sprinter, but found her talent for BMX riding as a teenager, becoming the World Under 18 champion, at just 15 years of age.

In her first senior season in 2007, she became the Women's World Champion, and by 2008 had won eight European, five British and three world titles in the BMX junior and senior arenas.

It was no surprise that she was the favourite for gold when BMX became an Olympic sport in Beijing.

However, it ended in disappointment when in the silver medal position Shanaze pushed hard for gold but ended up crashing out of the race altogether.

Her cycling skills also extend beyond the BMX track and into the Velodrome.

In March 2007 she and Victoria Pendleton won a world track cycling gold in the women's team sprint, a title they retained in 2008.

In March 2009, Shanaze gained silver in the team sprint alongside Pendleton in the world track cycling championships. She'll be hoping for medals in both disciplines in London.

2010 update: Suffered shoulder injury so couldn't defend 2008 world championship crown. Regained it on 31 July 2010 at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa (3rd in 4 years).

Kate Dennison
Kate Dennison

Born: Durban, South Africa. (raised in Alsager!)

Event: Pole Vault.

Kate Dennison showed she is a true contender for the gold medal in London at an obscure athletics meeting in Prague in 2009.

It was where she broke the British pole vault record with a clearance of 4.51m.

Kate was a former gymnast coming 4th in the British Championships before she tried her hand at pole vault in 2000.

She took it 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 in 2007.

Kate also studied for a degree in Psychology at Staffordshire University and is a qualified gym instructor.

2010 update: Holds British record of 5.60m indoor and outdoor. Finished 6th in the European Championships 2010.

Steven Lewis

Steven competed in the Beijing Olympics but didn't make the pole vault final

Born: Stoke-on-Trent

Event: Pole Vault

Steven Lewis started out pole vaulting when he was 13 years old as he thought it looked interesting and fun. He still trains regularly at his local Northwood Stadium.

Steve had high hopes for the Olympics in Beijing 2008 after winning a bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, but it didn't go to plan.

Disappointingly, Steve failed all three attempts at his opening height of 5.45m - well short of his personal best of 5.61m - and bowed out in the early stages of qualifying.

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.

2010 update: Personal Best of 5.75m in January 2009. Fourth place at the European Indoor Championships in Turin.

Beth Tweddle
Beth Tweddle

Born: Johannesburg (hometown Bunbury, Cheshire)

Event: Gymnastics

Beth is the most successful British gymnast of all time. She has won everything there is to win except for one thing... Olympic gold!

She finished fourth in her specialist event - the uneven bars - in Beijing in 2008.

After a disappointing Olympics, Tweddle bounced back in dramatic style. At the 2009 European Championships, she won gold medals in both floor exercise and bars.

She also went on to win both of those events at the Glasgow Grand Prix event in May 2009.

She then won floor gymnastics gold at the World Championships at the O2 Arena in London.

Her achievements were recognised in the New Years honours when she was awarded an MBE.

She was also nominated in the final 10 for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year but lost out to Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs.

Beth again took two gold medals at the 2010 European Championship in Birmingham, retaining both floor and bars titles.

She now has her sights set on the 2012 Olympics but admits that she might, even at just 27 years old, be too old.

She says she may not make the decision on whether she wants to aim for the squad until 12 months before the games.

Anna Watkins (nee Bebington)
Anna Bebington

Born: Leek

Event: Rowing - Double Sculls

Anna won Britain's first rowing medal of the 2008 Beijing games with her team-mate Elise Laverick, when they captured the bronze.

It was another medal to add to their 3rd place in the 2007 World Championships in Munich in the Double Skulls.

However, Laverick has decided to take time out from the sport, which means Anna is likely to compete alongside former rowing partner Annabel Vernon, who she won the World Cup with in 2006.

The pair enjoyed a glorious reunion at the World Championships in 2009, when they won the silver medal.

2010 update: Anna got married to Oliver Watkins in 2009, and so far in 2010, Anna has won many golds in various World Cup races.

Beth Rodford
Beth Rodford

Born: Burton-on-Trent

Event: Rowing - Eights

Beth rowed as part of the Team GB women's eight at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games and finished 5th.

In 2009 she has shown her sculling prowess through Trials, making the A Final at the GB Rowing Senior Trials in April, and took part in the 2009 World Championships in Poznan

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.

She's a former World U23 Champion who has also represented Britain in the 2007 and 2008 World Cup series.

2010 update: Beth raced in the women's quadruple scull, winning gold in Bled, silver in Munich and gold in Lucerne in the 2010 World Cup Series.

Matthew Langridge
Matthew Langridge

Born: Crewe.

Event: Rowing - Eights

Matthew was part of the men's eight that won the silver medal at the Olympics in Beijing 2008. Along with his teammates he was clearly dissatisfied finishing second - they felt they should have had gold!

Twelve months later Matthew was winning gold at the World Championships in Poznan, in the men's fours, and is confident of repeating that success in London 2012.

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 began competitive team rowing in 2007.

2010 update: Competed in men's fours World Vup 2010. Won 2 golds (Bled and Lucerne) and a bronze (Munich).

Jessica Sylvester
Jess Sylvester

Born: Newcastle-under-Lyme

Event: Swimming

Jessica Sylvester made her Olympic debut at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games where she represented Team GB in the 4x100m freestyle relay. They finished in seventh place.

At the British Championships 2009 she won a bronze medal in the 100 metres butterfly, an event in which she still holds a number of records.

Jess was also 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 ever results are 4th in the 100m freestyle and 5th in the 50m butterfly at the British Championships in Sheffield in 2008.

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.

2010 update: Won silver in 4x100 Freestyle in Budapest, Hungary.

Charlotte Craddock
Charlotte Craddock

Born: Wolverhampton.

Event: Hockey.

Charlotte was the youngest member of the 2008 Team GB hockey squad. At the tender age of 17 she is also one of the youngest players to ever play hockey for Great Britain.

She was used mostly as a substitute in the Beijing Olympics, though she was selected in the starting line-up against Japan. Team GB failed to get among the medals.

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.

2010 update: Won bronze in Champions Trophy 2010 in Nottingham.


Other hopefuls...

Emma Jackson - 800m

21 years old from Trent Vale. Represented Team GB at U23 level.

Won a silver medal in the World Junior Games - recording a personal best 2:01:95.

Finished 5th in U23 European Championships last year. Three golds in the AAA Championships.

Currently ranked 4th in UK - recorded new PB on 14 August 2010 at Aviva London Grand Prix - 2:00:08.

Rachael Kelly - Swimming, Butterfly

16 Years old from near Market Drayton. Ranked 4th in the UK.

Trains at Jubilee Pool, Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Won 1 gold (100m Butterfly), 2 silver (200m Butterfly, 4x100 Relay) at the European Juinior Swimming Championships in Helsinki July 2010.

Currently competing in World Junior Olympics in Singapore.

Had knee reconstruction in July 2009, began swimming again November 2009.

Competes in 50m/100m/200m/ Butterfly and Relay.

Starts A-levels in September in Wolverhampton so she can train at the Royal Wolverhampton Swimming Club.




SEE ALSO
Gymnast Beth Tweddle awarded MBE
31 Dec 09 |  People & Places
Olympic hopefuls tour 2012 venues
17 Dec 09 |  People & Places
In pictures: Kate Dennison's career
02 Dec 09 |  Arts & Culture
Stars of 2009: Alex and Ashlee Nelson
20 Feb 09 |  Athletics
Pearson is face of Paralympics
25 Sep 10 |  People & Places
Anna Watkins, rowing
26 Jul 10 |  Rowing
Local runner in GB marathon team
20 Jul 10 |  People & Places
Reade takes third world BMX title
31 Jul 10 |  Cycling

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