WITH the eyes of the world firmly fixed on the greatest show on earth and Olympic fever sweeping the nation, one Burnley family has a keener interest than most in the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Mr and Mrs Michael and Wendy Hitchon, of Stephenson Drive, will be willing on their athlete daughter Sophie (21) when she competes in the qualifying round for the hammer event at the Olympic Stadium next Wednesday.
The Hitchons, along with Sophie’s 14-year-old sister Emma, will travel down to London ahead of her event.
Wendy (46) said: “We’ve managed to buy a couple of tickets and Sophie’s supposed to get another couple for the event that she’s in. We’re trying not to think about it. I’m quite confident that she’s confident, Sophie will cope with it better than we will. It’s very exciting.
“To be involved in the London Olympics in front of a home crowd is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Sophie, a former pupil of Wellfield Primary School and Ivy Bank Secondary School, has been preparing at a training camp in Portugal and was due to arrive at the athletes’ village yesterday (Thursday).
Her mum said she has been training twice a day in preparation for her Olympic debut.
Wendy, who works as a healthy living co-ordinator at The Chai Centre, in Burnley, said: “I spoke to her briefly the other night, she had just finished training. I think she’s been on form with her training. She’s preparing herself as best she can. She trains every weekday and has two days off. It can take a lot out of her. She has to watch what she eats, it’s very restrictive. Everything revolves around the athletics.
Sophie’s parents and the rest of the family have been watching the games since the opening ceremony a week ago.
Michael (49) is a former English schools champion in the 100m while his wife was also a sprinter, at county level, so sport has always been a part of former ballet dancer Sophie’s life.
“She’s picked it up, sport has always been there. She’s grown up to be very grounded,” added Wendy.
“We’ve been watching a lot of the Olympics and it’s been incredible.
“I think it’s making everybody patriotic and bringing people together. I thought the opening ceremony was really good, it was very British.”
Also getting behind Sophie will be neighbours in Stephenson Drive and her two sets of grandparents. Her mother’s parents Mr Alan and Marjorie Tomlinson, of Sycamore Avenue, have travelled all over the world to follow their granddaughter’s progress, attending the Commonwealth Games in India two years ago and the Junior World Championships in Canada.
“She knows she’s very privileged in what she’s doing and she does make sacrifices.
“She has to be very disciplined, she doesn’t party very much, or at all. She appreciates she has a good life and she works hard at what she does.”
Sophie finished in 11th place at the European Championships in Finland earlier in the summer and her mum said it would be a dream come true for Sophie to make the Olympic final on home soil.
“For her to be called an Olympian is amazing. I don’t think it will hit me until she walks out for the event.
“Looking at her now in the Olympics is sort of registering but when she walks out for her qualifying round, it will be amazing. The reaction to the British Olympians has been incredible.
“Hopefully she will have a few more Olympics to come.”