On their marks...

PUBLISHED: 18:37 19 August 2009 | UPDATED: 17:04 25 August 2010

WITH the Olympics taking over our capital in less than three years, we take a closer look at the hopefuls from our area who have more than a

WITH the Olympics taking over our capital in less than three years, we take a closer look at the hopefuls from our area who have more than a fighting chance of being selected for Team GB.

Europa gym in Fraser Road, Erith, is proving to be a champion factory despite dire financial problems.

Already one of its teenagers - weightlifter Zoe Smith, 15, from Abbey Wood - has been chosen for Team GB at London 2012.

She was at the Beijing Games last year as an observer but in 2012 will make the trip to the ExCeL centre in Docklands as a competitor.

The former gymnast came sixth in the under-58kg class in the under-20s 2009 European junior weightlifting championships in Sweden last month.

And next month the teenager with a bodyweight of 58kg, will represent her country in the European Under-17 Championship in Israel. This comes after winning the Commonwealth youth title and being named one of the British Olympic Association's Athletes of the Year.

Zoe, who trains four days a week for two hours, said: "Europa is like a home away from home. I would be disadvantaged if it closed. I wouldn't have anywhere close by to go. It is 10 minutes from my house. I would have a two-hour round trip to get to the nearest in Crystal Palace.

"I am excited about London 2012. It will be nice to compete before a home crowd and hopefully make them proud."

One of the gym's teen boxers, Lewis Petit, is hoping to follow in the lightweight footsteps of Amir Khan, who at the age of 17 won a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004. The only Olympic Games Khan could remember before that was Sydney - a mere four years before.

Lewis, 18, from Bexley, looks like he has a fighting chance of a place in the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, next year, which could prove to be a springboard to the Olympics. Commonwealth gymnast contender Sophie Brundish, 16, from Bexley, is already part of the England squad. She is coached by Europa gym's manager Len Arnold, who is also the England team manager for women's artistic gymnastics, for both senior and junior.

Middle-distance runner Mike Skinner, 29, who grew up in West Wickham, admits he has more immediate goals in sight but the thought of London 2012 is never far away.

Currently on a two-week break because of Achilles tendonitis, he missed out on the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre last month, but hopes to run in the Great North Run in Sunderland, whose date has yet to be confirmed.

He said: "London 2012 is there. You don't forget about it. There are more short-term goals such as the Commonwealth Games and the Europeans and if you are successful in them, you could reach the Games in the end."

The runner is also part of Blackheath and Bromley Harriers, home to Montell Douglas, 23, current British record holder for the 100 metres at 11.05 and Beijing competitor.

Mr Skinner said: "She is looking good. She is a British record holder so you don't need to say a lot more about that.

"There are a lot of good juniors at the club. It would be unfair to single one out. And in three years a lot can happen and they can step up to the next level.


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