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Anne Keothavong on London 2012


 

Originally published on: 27/07/12 00:00

I found out I’d been selected to represent Great Britain at this summer’s Olympics just before my first round match at Wimbledon. I thought the decision was going to be made later that week but the Tennis Team Leader for Team GB, Paul Hutchins, sent me a message just before I was about to go on court to say that I’d been given a wild card into the women’s singles which, along with the other four tennis events, will be held at the All England Club. He said the news was already starting to break on Twitter and he wanted to tell me first hand, rather than for me to read the news online just before I was due to go on court. To get that final confirmation was an amazing feeling.

There’s a lot of excitement that it’s an Olympic Games, but also that it’s the Games at home, in my home city. I’m looking forward to getting an idea of the whole Olympic feel of the event, and the week before the tournament begins on July 28 I’ll be staying in the Olympic Village in east London to get an idea of what that’s like. We’re all pushing to go to the Opening Ceremony on July 27, but at the moment it’s all up in the air because the tennis starts the following day. Once the tennis gets under way, I’ll move back to my own flat in Wimbledon Village as I live only a couple of miles from the All England Club, where I’m also a member.

It’s also significant for me since the majority of the events are going to be taking place in the London borough of Hackney where I grew up and started playing tennis. I hope there is a legacy to the Games in that area once the athletes have all gone home. Hopefully, the facilities that have been built will be used wisely and that after so much build-up to the Games it encourages not only young people, but adults too, to get involved in sport and to get fit.

The only thing I was a little bit gutted about was that I wasn’t asked to carry the Olympic torch during its route around Britain as it goes past the end of my road where I grew up in Stoke Newington, in north-east London. I would have loved to have done that but I guess you can’t be too greedy!

I’ve been talking to a few of the tennis players who played at the 2008 Games in Beijing and a lot of them have said to me, ‘I wish I’d stayed a bit longer after the tennis had finished rather than rushing to the next tournament – I wish I’d experienced everything that the Games is about.’ So that’s definitely what I’ll be doing in London. I’m looking forward to watching some of the other sports – definitely track and field in the Olympic Stadium, fencing and taekwondo too, which is a sport I was involved in a lot when I was younger.

I have strong memories of watching the Athens and Beijing Olympics. I particularly remember Beijing and US swimmer Michael Phelps’ eight gold medals. I’d been to a tournament in Stanford, California, just before those Games and Phelps and the rest of the American swimming team were training there and were staying in our hotel. I remember being amazed at how much those guys ate for breakfast! It was ridiculous.

So all in all, I’m really excited about London. When I’m older and I’ve retired I can look back and say, ‘I’ve been an Olympian.’ But not only an Olympian, an Olympian at my home Games. It’s a life experience you’ll only ever have once.

This entry from 'On tour with Anne' features in the August issue of tennishead magazine, in shops now. Why not subscribe here. 

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