Greenwich athletes still aiming for Tokyo 2021

By 12th March 2021 No Comments

As anyone involved in charity fundraising will confirm; these past Covid-affected 12 months have been difficult, to say the least, especially for small Charities like the one I’m a Trustee of, Greenwich Starting Blocks Trust (GSB Trust), which has no staff and is administered entirely by its Trustees.

As for the funding for the charity; apart from small donations and items of merchandise bought via our online ‘shop’, in essence we rely entirely on the profits of our annual fundraising Gala Dinner, something we weren’t able to stage in 2020 and it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to stage one this Autumn either.

The origins of GSB Trust can be found in 2007. With the news that Greenwich would stage more than a third of the events in the London 2012 Olympics, the question was asked ‘what if there was a Greenwich athlete somewhere who might win a medal at the London Games?’ If such an athlete or indeed athletes existed in Greenwich, the next question must be ‘what challenges, both personal and financial, might they have which could hinder their chances of success?’

On the back of this, Greenwich Council approached a number of representatives from prominent local companies and invited them to become Trustees of the new charity – Greenwich Starting Blocks Trust. I was Commercial Director of Charlton Athletic FC at that time, and I was delighted to become a founding Trustee of the Charity. Our aim was to identify, with our partners GLL Sports Foundation, talented young elite athletes and to assist them to achieve their sporting dreams.

How successful were we? Well, when Gemma Gibbons flipped the French World Judo Champion onto her back in the semi-finals of the Judo at the Excel Centre, she raised her eyes to the heavens and produced one of London 2012’s most enduring images. ”I love you Mum” was lip read across the nation and Greenwich Starting Blocks Trust proudly had its first Olympic medalist.

What was not known was the struggle that Gemma had to get to the 2012 Games. Injury the year before meant she lost her ranking. Without a ranking she was ineligible for funding. To regain her ranking she had to compete. The competitions were in Malaysia, Singapore and the USA. How does a teenager, living alone in a council flat in Charlton, find the resources to fly across the world, pay for hotels, food and competition fees just to try to secure her ranking?

This is where Greenwich Starting Blocks came in. The charity paid the costs to get Gemma to these competitions, to win back her ranking and to secure selection just in time to make it for London 2012.

Since then, as you will see in this video produced in 2019, GSB Trust-supported athletes have gone on to enjoy Olympic, World, European, Commonwealth and Paralympic medal-winning success.

At our Fundraising Dinner held at Magazine London in October 2019, the focus was entirely on supporting our talented athletes aiming for a place in Team GB for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Of course, little did any of us know that the World would soon be in the grip of a Pandemic that would turn all of our personal lives upside down and would necessitate the postponement of all sport, both domestic and International, including the Tokyo Games.

As I write, the world is still gripped by the Pandemic, although the advent of the Covid-19 vaccine has given real hope that by this summer, some sort of normality will have returned to our lives.

As to whether the Tokyo Olympics will actually take place this year and if it does what will it look like, is anyone’s guess. But if the Games do take place, the hope is that Greenwich will have at least three athletes representing Team GB.

To find out more about Greenwich Starting Blocks Trust go to: Greenwich Starting Blocks Fundraising