Goldie Sayers, Britain’s number one female javelin thrower since 2003, will represent Great Britain for the third time at the London Olympics this summer.
Her first Olympic appearance for Team GB at the Beijing Games in 2008, saw her beat her own UK record with a massive throw of 65.75 metres. Despite this record-breaking throw she narrowly missed out on a medal by just 38 centimetres.
Besides competing in two Olympic Games, Goldie has taken home gold from six consecutive national championships, and has stood on the podium at several international fixtures, including taking the gold medal at the European Cup in 2007. Goldie also holds a first class honours degree in sport and exercise science from Loughborough University.
Goldie broke her first record for the javelin throw at the age of 11 when, with a throw of 29 metres, she beat her school’s seniors record. It wasn’t until the age of 18 however, that she began to compete in athletics full time. Up until this point, with the support and encouragement of her school, Goldie focused on team sports including hockey and netball.
Goldie has previously said that playing team games from an early age was crucial in her athletics career. In 2006 Goldie remarked that “Team games are so important and should be on the agenda, without fail, in every school in the country, starting with primary schools”. In the same interview she pointed out that “If we want elite sport to get better, we have to instil competition in schools”.
Between 2003 and 2010, under the last Labour Government, the number of secondary school children playing sport for two or more hours a week rose from 20% to 85%. Labour also set up a network of school sports co-ordinators who were responsible for working on an inter-school basis to increase the range and quality of sports available for pupils.
In an interview with the Guardian, school sports coordinator, Jo Marston has called these the “halcyon days” on the basis of a previously unseen breadth and depth of competition in school sports.
In 2010 Michael Gove abolished the networks of school sports co-ordinators set up by Labour in the face of much outrage from both teachers and athletes. He later back-tracked and continued to fund the position, albeit at a reduced rate of one day per week. He has also ended ring-fencing for the post.
Luckily for Jo Marston and her pupils, the schools that she works in saw the great benefits of keeping her on for three days a week in this position. Because of the lack of ring-fenced funding, many schools have chosen to use this money to plug holes elsewhere in their budgets. I can only feel sadness for the many children who won’t benefit from this excellent initiative.
This summer I will be clapping Goldie on as she runs up for her throw; I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will also be able to cheer for her as she climbs onto the podium in triumph!