YEOVIL sports star Sam Weale is being tipped for success at the Olympic Games by somebody who knows all about the pressure of performing in the biggest sporting event in the world.
2004 Olympic bronze medallist Georgina Harland missed the opportunity to compete in Beijing in the modern pentathlon through injury, but is backing Yeovil’s Sam to achieve on the greatest stage of all.
Sam, twin brother of former Yeovil Town goalkeeper Chris Weale, will be performing on Thursday in the five-discipline sport of shooting, fencing, swimming, riding and running. All of these will take place, British time, from 1.30am through to Thursday afternoon.
Georgina has been acting as mentor to the GB modern pentathlon quartet of Sam, Nick Woodbridge, Heather Fell and Katy Livingstone and believes the Olympics will be a great learning experience for them.
“I hope the athletes can achieve success in Beijing – but if it doesn’t go their way they will take massive experience onto London 2012 and it’s definitely a bright future for them,” said Harland, who trains with Sam at the University of Bath.
“It’s great to be able to give advice about competing at a Games, the build up and what they might experience and I hope it’s useful to them. There are five events in the pentathlon so a lot of focus is required.
"But it is the Olympics and they have to give it their all.”
Sam, who originates from Yeovil, has had his strongest year in 2008, following seasons when he struggled with injury.
He became the first British male to reach all finals of the World Cup campaign, won his first World Cup medal with bronze at Millfield and reached his first World Championships final.
Georgina said: “Sam has had a lot of injury trouble and if he can maintain his body’s fitness he’ll be going in with a chance.
"He’s had his best year in 2008 and he’s got his eye on the prize and if he can keep his head together in the shooting and fencing events he’s in with a shot."
Harland, who is sponsored by Atos Origin, IT partner to the Olympic Games, believes Team GB have set a great standard for the modern pentathletes to follow.
“I’ve been glued to the television," she said. "We set the standard early on with Nicole Cooke winning the cycling road race and Rebecca Adlington winning the women’s 400m freestyle.
“British sport has made a massive step forward thanks to National Lottery funding and it’s a really exciting time as all the athletes are starting to realise their potential and are returning with medals.”
The 30-year-old is currently undergoing rehabilitation to a leg injury sustained during the World Championships and admits to feeling frustrated she can’t be in Beijing herself.
“Obviously I love the British success but it’s slightly strange to be sitting back here," she said. "I’d love to be part of it but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.
“My body is trying to get better – it’s a slow process and at the moment I’m focussing on rehab to ensure I’m giving myself every chance of competing in London 2012."