Spotlight on Swimmer Ellen Gandy, Basketball player Harriet Yea and Emma Kent

With London 2012 fast approaching, Kent Life speaks to three female athletes and para-athletes from Kent who will looking to perform on the world's largest sporting stage at this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games

Name: Ellen GandyBorn: 15 March 1991Sport: Swimming – 200m Butterfly

Kent connection: Born in Bromley and lived in Beckenham aged seven-15Swimmer Ellen Gandy, 21, was born in Bromley but moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2007 when her father got a job there and the rest of her family followed. Prior to that, she was a pupil at Langley Park Girls School in Beckenham, for whom she holds great appreciation for their support of her swimming aspirations.“School was brilliant because they let me miss assemblies when I had training in the mornings and they always accommodated me when I was travelling overseas for training and needed to take school work away with me,” says Ellen. “I wouldn’t have been able to do so well at GCSEs if it weren’t for my teachers there.”A massive date is coming up for the 19-year-old, who will compete in the British Gas Swimming Championships in March. Her performance there will determine whether or not she will compete at London 2012.“Preparations for the Olympics trials are going well,” she says. “I recently went to Arizona and Spain for altitude-training camps, which was both fun and hard work. We’re trying new things and its getting quite exciting.”British Swimming is the national governing body for swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, water polo and open water swimming in Great Britain and is responsible internationally for the high performance representation of the sport. 

Harriet Yea, 23, began playing basketball on the courts of the Riverside Youth Centre in her home city of Canterbury aged 12 and her journey through the sport since has seen her win an English EBL Championship, call-up to the Great Britain national team and hopefully, inclusion in the GB squad for the 2012 Olympics.Her successes, which have also included winning English Basketball’s Women’s U18 Player of the Year in 2007, came despite a difficult start. “I tried basketball at school and I told my mum how much I’d enjoyed it,” says Harriet. “We looked around for a girls’ team for ages but couldn’t find one, so I ended up playing for the boys’ team of Canterbury Crusaders Basketball Club!”Harriet eventually joined a regional women’s basketball team in her teens and currently plays for Barking Abbey Leopards in Division One of the English Basketball League. Her career highlights to date are playing in Division A of EuroBasket with Great Britain and played in the EuroCup for her country, aged just 19. “But playing in the Olympics for Great Britain would top the lot!” she smiles. “Preparations are going well, I’m keeping focused, training a lot and watching my diet, so fingers crossed.”Away from the court, Harriet enjoys shopping in Canterbury and eating out at The Olive Grove restaurant, and she loves the beaches at Whitstable. “I’m a member of the Body and Mind Leisure Centre and Gym in Canterbury and I’m really grateful to The King’s Recreation Centre, who allow me to shoot some hoops every day.”

Name: Harriet YeaBorn: 6 February 1989Sport: Women’s basketball

Kent connection: Born in Canterbury and still lives there. She is pictured outside the new Marlowe Theatre Harriet Yea, 23, began playing basketball on the courts of the Riverside Youth Centre in her home city of Canterbury aged 12 and her journey through the sport since has seen her win an English EBL Championship, call-up to the Great Britain national team and hopefully, inclusion in the GB squad for the 2012 Olympics.Her successes, which have also included winning English Basketball’s Women’s U18 Player of the Year in 2007, came despite a difficult start. “I tried basketball at school and I told my mum how much I’d enjoyed it,” says Harriet. “We looked around for a girls’ team for ages but couldn’t find one, so I ended up playing for the boys’ team of Canterbury Crusaders Basketball Club!”Harriet eventually joined a regional women’s basketball team in her teens and currently plays for Barking Abbey Leopards in Division One of the English Basketball League. Her career highlights to date are playing in Division A of EuroBasket with Great Britain and played in the EuroCup for her country, aged just 19. “But playing in the Olympics for Great Britain would top the lot!” she smiles. “Preparations are going well, I’m keeping focused, training a lot and watching my diet, so fingers crossed.”Away from the court, Harriet enjoys shopping in Canterbury and eating out at The Olive Grove restaurant, and she loves the beaches at Whitstable. “I’m a member of the Body and Mind Leisure Centre and Gym in Canterbury and I’m really grateful to The King’s Recreation Centre, who allow me to shoot some hoops every day.”

Given her surname, it is fitting that Emma Kent is such a huge fan of her home county. “I love living in Kent,” smiles the 24-year-old equestrian star. “My earliest memories of the county are going to Leeds Castle when I was a child. The highlight there for me used to be an onsite farm – getting the chance to see the animals is something all kids of a certain age love to do and I was no different.”Emma’s passion for horse riding began at Mount Mascal Stables in Bexley, having been recommended to visit by a physiotherapist, and she currently trains at a country park near Bluewater in Greenhithe. She is hoping to make it into Team GB to compete at the Paralympics this summer, though admits Rio 2016 might be a more realistic ambition.“It’s going to be tough to make it into the Paralympic squad for 2012 as there aren’t many places up for grabs. It’s more likely that I will be involved in four years time, but I’ve still got my fingers crossed for involvement in 2012 of course.”For more information on the individual athletes included here and Great Britain’s teams for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, please visit: kent.greatbritishlife.co.uk. We will be meeting more young Kent Olympian and Paralympian hopefuls in the months leading up to the 2012 Games.

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Name: Emma KentBorn: 21 March 1987Sport: Para-equestrian dressage

Kent connection: Born in Sidcup and currently lives in Northumberland Heath Given her surname, it is fitting that Emma Kent is such a huge fan of her home county. “I love living in Kent,” smiles the 24-year-old equestrian star. “My earliest memories of the county are going to Leeds Castle when I was a child. The highlight there for me used to be an onsite farm – getting the chance to see the animals is something all kids of a certain age love to do and I was no different.”

Emma’s passion for horse riding began at Mount Mascal Stables in Bexley, having been recommended to visit by a physiotherapist, and she currently trains at a country park near Bluewater in Greenhithe. She is hoping to make it into Team GB to compete at the Paralympics this summer, though admits Rio 2016 might be a more realistic ambition.“It’s going to be tough to make it into the Paralympic squad for 2012 as there aren’t many places up for grabs. It’s more likely that I will be involved in four years time, but I’ve still got my fingers crossed for involvement in 2012 of course.”

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