Olympics and Paralympics / News

19 Bristol athletes to watch at Rio 2016

By ned holmes, Thursday Aug 4, 2016

The 2016 Olympics officially kicks off in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, with over 11,000 athletes from 206 countries competing in 306 events over the two-week period.

We’ve compiled a list of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes with links to Bristol and when to look out for them.

James Blackwell – 7-a-side football

James Blackwell, who grew up in Hawkesbury Upton, will compete in the seven-a-side football having helped the team secure paralympic qualification in 2015.

The 30-year-old was born with cerebral palsy and despite doctors telling parents he may never walk has played football all his life. Blackwell discovered cerebral palsy football playing against Paralympian Ibs Diallo in a game for Kingswood in 2012.

The midfielder, who is competing in his first Paralympic Games, will be hoping to help Great Britain improve on their 7th place finish from London.

When to watch him: The seven-a-side competition begins on September 8 and concludes with the final on September 16.

Karen Butler – Shooting 

Rio will be Bristol local Karen Butler’s fifth Paralympics, making her the most experienced British shooter competing at the games.

The 49-year-old first started shooting in 1989 when she was introduced to the sport during her Duke of Edinburgh gold award. She began competing in 1991 and made her Paralympic debut just a year later at Barcelona 1992.

When to watch her: The Paralympic shooting events begin on September 8 and finish on September 14.   

Lawrence Clarke – 110m Hurdles

Elsewhere on the track, University of Bristol graduate Lawrence Clarke will compete in the 110m hurdles. Clarke took up athletics at the age of 18 in his final year at Eton, and quickly found success winning gold at the European Athletics Championships in 2009 and bronze at the commonwealth games in 2010.

The 26-year-old narrowly missed out on a medal at London 2012, finishing fourth in the 110m hurdles final.

When to watch him: Heats take place on August 15, with both the semi-finals and final taking place the following day.

Sally Conway – Judo

Thornbury-born Sally Conway will compete in the judo at Rio 2016. Conway, who competes in the -70kg division, started Judo at the age of 10 when her dad took her to a local judo club.

The 29-year-old will be hoping to use the experience she gained at London 2012, where she lost to second seed Edith Bosch after being penalised for backing off, to challenge for a medal in Rio.

When to watch her: The Women’s -70kg Judo takes place on the August 10. 

Emily Diamond – 400m/4x400m

Diamond (Centre Right) will be competing in both the 400m and 4x400m relay

On the track, 25-year-old Bristolian Emily Diamond will compete in both the 400m and 4x400m events. Diamond, who took up athletics during her time at Bristol Grammar School, won the UK trials in June with a time of 3 minutes 26.42 seconds, more than a second faster than any other competitor.

Rio 2016 will be her second Olympics, having been selected as a reserve for the 4x400m at the London 2012 Olympics but not competing. 

When to watch her – Round one of the 400m is on the August 13, followed by the semi-finals the next day and the final on August 15. Both round one and the final of the 4x400m take place on the August 15.

Juliano Fiori – Rugby Sevens

Not representing Great Britain, but certainly still an athlete to look out for, is University of Bristol alumni Juliano Fiori. The hammersmith-born 30-year-old will be representing hosts Brazil as his father Jorge was born there.

Fiori began playing rugby at London-welsh at under-7 level before joining London club Richmond at age 18 and going on to represent both Bristol and Cambridge at University. He made his sevens debut at the Dubai Sevens in 2014 and has represented Brazil regularly since then, while balancing his commitments as Head of Humanitarian Affairs at Charity Save the Children. 

When to watch him: The men’s Rugby Sevens competition starts on August 9 and concludes with the final on August 11. 

Claudia Fragapane – Gymnastics


Claudia Fragapane is perhaps Bristol’s best medal hope at Rio 2016, having announced herself on the world stage at the age of just 16 in 2014. The Bristol-born gymnast won four medals at the Commonwealth Games as well as the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year Award.

Rio will be Fragapane’s first Olympics, 12 years after her mother first took her to Hawks Gym, in Easton, as a six-year-old.

When to watch her – The team qualifying takes place on the of August 7, with the final taking place the next day. The all-around event on August 11 and concludes with the floor event on August 16.

Ruby Harrold – Gymnastics

Portishead local Ruby Harrold’s journey to the Olympics has been a tough one, she lost her mother to cancer aged six and missed out on the 2012 games due to a shoulder injury.

In the four years since London, the 20-year-old’s career has gone from strength to strength. She helped the Great Britain team to silvers at the 2014 and 2016 European Championships and Bronze at the World Championships, as well as picking up three medals at the 2014 Commonwealth games.

When to watch her – The team qualifying takes place on the of August 7, with the final taking place the next day. The all-around event on August 11 and concludes with the floor event on August 16. 

Humphrey Kayange – Rugby Sevens

Facing off against Great Britain in their opening game of the sevens competition will be University of Bristol graduate and Kenyan Rugby Sevens star, Humphrey Kayange. 

Kayange was born in the Rift Valley, a region famed for producing long distance runners, and began playing rugby at the age of 16 at Kakamenga high school.

The 34-year-old was already a big name in international rugby sevens, having captained the Kenyan national team, when he begun his research in antibiotics at the University of Bristol in 2012. 

When to watch him: The men’s Rugby Sevens competition starts on August 9 and concludes with the final on August 11.

Hannah Mills – Sailing

Hannah Mills deferred the final year of her mechanical engineering course at the University of Bristol to allow her the best preparation for the London 2012 games. It was a decision justified by the silver medal she won alongside Saskia Clark in London and the gold medal they won at the 2012 World Championships.

The pair will be competing in the same event, the 470 series, at Rio 2016, and will be looking to turn their silver medal into gold.

When to watch her:  The Women’s 470 competition begins on August 10, and the gold medal race takes place on the August 17. 

Tom Mitchell – Rugby Sevens

Rio 2016 will be the first time Rugby is included in the games for 96 years, and the Great Britain Sevens men’s team will be led by University of Bristol graduate Tom Mitchell.

Since graduating from the University of Bristol in 2011, the 27-year-old has represented England in 34 World Series events; scoring 85 tries and amassing 899 points.

The high point of his four-year international sevens career so far was his performance during the 2013/14 Sevens World series. Mitchell was the highest points scorer in the competition, finishing 98 points clear of his nearest competitor.

When to watch him: The men’s Rugby Sevens competition starts on August 9 and concludes with the final on August 11.   

Dan Norton – Rugby Sevens

Joining Mitchell and Davis in Team GB squad for Rio is Dan Norton, the fourth highest try scorer in World Rugby Sevens Series history.

The 28-year-old made a name for himself at Hartpury College before joining Gloucester in 2007. Norton joined Bristol Rugby 2 years later and helped them to a British and Irish Cup before returning to Hartpury College in 2011.

His Sevens career began as a Bristol Rugby player in 2009 and he has since notched up 1,064 points in 54 events.

When to watch him: The men’s Rugby Sevens competition starts on August 9 and concludes with the final on August 11.    

Lily Owsley – Hockey

Also selected to represent Great Britain on the Astroturf is Lily Owsley. The 21-year-old began playing hockey at Clifton College aged 13, where, even though at the time she would have preferred to be on the football pitch or the running track, the sport was compulsory.

She made her full international debut five years later in 2013 and has since helped the England team to Commonwealth silver in 2014 and European Championship gold in 2015.

Rio will be the 2015 FIH Rising Star award winner’s first Olympics, having watched from the stands with her father at London 2012.

When to watch her:  Great Britain Women’s first game is against India on August 8, and the final, should they make it, takes place on August 19.   

Andrew Pozzi – 110m Hurdles

Competing against Clarke in the 110m hurdles, and perhaps bringing some of the UoB/UWE rivalry with him, will be University of the West of England graduate Andrew Pozzi. Pozzi begun his athletics career as a junior with Stratford Athletics Club and holds the record for the fastest time ever run by a UK junior hurdler.

The 24-year-old won the British Championships in June, finishing 0.07 seconds faster than Lawrence Clarke in second place. Rio offers Pozzi another opportunity for Olympic success, after he was unable to finish his opening race at the London 2012 games due to injury.

When to watch him: Heats take place on August 15, with both the semi-finals and final taking place the following day. 

Pete Reed – Rowing

Also representing Great Britain on the water is the University of the West of England graduate Pete Reed. The ex-navy lieutenant took up rowing in his second year at UWE and continued it during his masters at Oxford University. Reed represented Oxford twice in the boat race, before being selected for the GB coxless four in 2005.

Rio will be the 35-year-old’s third Olympics, having won gold at both the 2008 and 2012 games.

When to watch him: The Men’s Fours begins on August 7 and finishes with the final on August 12. 

Jazmin Sawyers – Long Jump

It’s been a busy few months for Jazmin Sawyers, who graduated with a 2:1 from the University of Bristol in July, just a month after booking her place at Rio by winning the British Championships.

The 22-year-old began competing in athletics at the age of 10 and was successful as a junior across multiple events.

Sawyers will be hoping to carry her run of impressive results in major events – silver medals in both the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2016 European Championships – into her first Olympics in Rio.

When to watch her: The women’s long jump begins on August 16, with the final taking place the following day. 

Georgie Twigg – Hockey

University of Bristol graduate Georgie Twigg has become one of the most consistent performers in the Great Britain team since her debut in 2010. During that time she has been named England Hockey’s Young Performance Player of the Year four times, and helped both the England and GB teams to a number of medals.

Rio will be the 25-year-old’s second Olympic games, after she helped Great Britain to a Bronze medal at London 2012.

When to watch her:  Great Britain Women’s first game is against India on August 8, and the final, should they make it, takes place on August 19. 

Danielle Waterman – Rugby Sevens

Bristol Ladies full back Danielle Waterman will be part of the first squad to represent Great Britain at Rugby in the Olympics for 108 years.

The 31-year-old began her rugby career at her local rugby club, aged four, and received her first England cap aged 18. She has since gone on to score 34 tries in 60 appearances for the national 15-a-side team, including a try in 2014’s World Cup Final triumph over Canada. 

When to watch her: The women’s Rugby Sevens competition begins on August 6 and is wrapped up with the final on August 8.

Sonny Webster – Weightlifting

Bristol-based Sonny Webster will be the only male weightlifter representing Great Britain in Rio. The 22-year-old is one of only two Team GB athletes competing in weightlifting events at the 2016 Olympics, alongside 17-year-old Rebekah Tiler.

Webster, who trains at the Empire Sports Club in St Paul’s, will be making his first appearance at an Olympic Games in Rio. The current British Champion and under-23 British record holder will be competing in the 94kg weight category.

When to watch him: The men’s 94kg weightlifting is on August 13.

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