THE flame is burning brightly for Burnley’s Olympians a week into the Games.
Rachel Brown has had something of a watching brief in the women’s football tournament, but is part of the Team GB squad that have marched inexorably towards the last eight of the competition, closing in on a shot at a medal.
The only team not to concede a goal in the group phase, Hope Powell’s squad beat Brazil 1-0 in front of at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday night, courtesy of Arsenal full back Steph Houghton, who, incredibly scored her third goal in three games to settle the issue.
Kelly Smith had a second half penalty saved, in front of a record 70,584 crowd - the biggest UK attendance for a women’s football match, easily beating the 53,000 that saw the famous Dick Kerr’s Ladies - a Preston touring team - take on St Helens at Everton’s Goodison Park way back in 1920.
Great Britain now face Canada at the City of Coventry Stadium at 7-30 p.m. tomorrow, knowing victory will give them a shot at a medal - either by subsequently winning their last four encounter with either the USA or New Zealand, or, should they lose out in the semis, in a bronze medal match.
Away from football, handball is becoming the sleeper hit of the Games, breaking out of Europe, North Africa, Asia and Latin America - with the hope that there will be a big uptake in people participating in the sport in Britain.
Burnley-born Holly Lam-Moores is part of the first GB ladies team to take part in the Olympics, and while the side have lost all three games to date, and lie bottom of Group A ahead of tomorrow’s penultimate game with Angola at 9-30 a.m., their performances have been hugely encouraging for a team playing catch-up on the rest of the world.
They then play Croatia on Sunday at 4-15 p.m.
Holly has been restricted with an injury that almost wrecked her Olympic dream - one which she kept under wraps.
The 21-year-old was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the spine five weeks before the start of Games, which will need treatment after the competition before she returns to her club in Denmark.
She came on at half-time in Saturday night’s 31-19 defeat to Montenegro, but scored her first two Olympic goals in GB’s 37-16 defeat to 2008 silver medallists Russia on Monday.
And on Wednesday in 30-17 loss to Brazil, she was again on the scoresheet, scoring with her only shot.
However, young Clarets midfielder Cameron Howieson’s Games are over - safe in the knowledge the experience has, in the words of Eddie Howe, played a big role in his continuing development: “I think it will be something he looks back on with fond memories and I’m sure it’s brought him closer to our first team.”
After a 1-0 defeat against Belarus at Coventry last Thursday, and the 1-1 draw with Egypt at Old Trafford on Sunday, the 17-year-old got his third slice of action on Wednesday at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, against tournament favourites Brazil in a 3-0 loss.
Howieson got his longest run out of the competition, coming on at half-time for Kosta Barbarouses up against the likes of Tottenham’s Sandro, Manchester United target Lucas Moura, Neymar, Marcelo and Thiago Silva.
A senior international with the All Whites, Howieson, who helped Burnley to the FA Youth Cup semi-final last season, will hope to build on a whirlwind summer on his return to Turf Moor.
Former Ivy Bank pupil Sophie Hitchon entered the athletes’ village within the Olympic Park today ahead of her Games debut on Wednesday at 10 a.m., when qualification for the women’s hammer final begins.