Local success at the Tokyo Olympics

August 28, 2021| News + Events, Previous Issue

Liam Heath competing in his Olympic final.

Four Guildfordian athletes took part in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, team GB’s second-best Olympic games ever.

Although Alicia Wilson, of Guildford City Swimming Club, made her Olympic debut by reaching the final of the women’s 200m medley this year, the most successful of the four was Liam Heath MBE. Tokyo was sprint canoeist Liam’s third Olympic Games. Going into this year’s Olympics, he had already won sprint bronze in the K2 200m beside Jon Schofield in London 2012, silver in the same event in 2016, and gold that year in Rio’s individual 200m kayak sprint event.

Liam Heath MBE was born and raised in Guildford and attended George Abbot School. He was introduced to kayaking for the first time when he was 10, on a ‘holiday fun’ activity week at the Wey Kayak Club in Guildford, where he instantly clicked with the sport. He went on to train with them, competing as a junior, learning quickly and training hard.

Liam Heath having received his medal.

Wey Kayak Club is one of the top kayak clubs in the UK, catering for beginners through to international-level canoeists, and it is where young Liam spent much of his time. This served him well, and at the age of 25, he was invited to train with the GB sprint canoe team. After winning his first three medals, he sealed his title as an Olympic legend this year by winning a bronze in the men’s K1 200m sprint, his fourth medal of three consecutive Olympic Games.

In a recent interview, he was quoted as saying “It’s hard to put into words, it’s what you’re working towards, to be at your best for these events and I’ve learned so much along my journey. You learn more about yourself, your competitors and the people you work with day in, day out. It’s them working tirelessly behind the scenes which provides the support for me to be able to achieve my dreams. A massive thanks to everybody that’s watching at home. Not quite the gold, but I’m happy with my performance so I hope you guys can be happy too.”

As the current Tokyo Paralympics take place, watch out for Hannah Russell MBE. Hannah was born with a vision impairment and took up swimming at the age of five with Woking Swimming Club, before moving to Guildford City Swimming Club at the age of 12. After winning double bronze and a silver in London 2012 and double bronze and a gold at Rio 2016, she plans to compete in three events in Tokyo, the S12 100m backstroke, the S12 100m freestyle and the S13 50m freestyle.