So, that was good wasn’t it? London 2012 quietened the natural cynic even in us. And so, operation Rio is now underway. Four years to master the pommel horse? Easy. We learned to walk in less than two.
But how do you join the winning team? Fortunately, Team GB’s gold rush is sprinkled over a range of sports we can sample around here. You think dressage is confined to the mean streets of Greenwich? Think again. You think all shootings in Norris Green are Echo front page fodder. How wrong you are. Here’s our guide to the gold-winning events and how you can taste-test them all without so much as popping down to the Argos to buy your own javelin.
You thought LV just settled your dodgy household insurance claims (yeah, my freezer was full of smoked salmon when it broke down, honest)? Well you’re wrong, Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club is one of the area’s longest-established aquatic sports clubs – founded in 1883.
With their gleaming new centre the club occupies the best equipped boathouse in the north-west, with a fleet of more than thirty-five racing boats, eights, fours, quads, pairs, doubles and singles.
“We welcome all rowers, whether competitive or recreational,” says club chairman Jim Bibby. “There’s no need to join the Club until you decide you want to race, just pay a small fee each time you come. If you are an adult thinking of having a go, sign up for one of our adult beginner sessions, held every three months.” And if the weather’s too horrid, they’ve state-of-the-art Concept rowing machines and weights indoors. Rowing, skulling, professional coaching, and a Viking Regatta on 8 September. Coaching from £10 a day. We’re almost tempted.
Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club
Wallasey Bridge Road
We’ve all seen the prancing millionaires with their braided manes at the Olympics. And we don’t mean Rio Ferdinand in the VIP enclosure. No, our dressage and equestrian posse have really shown the Germans how to canter like they mean it.
“The problem with this sport is that it does require commitment and expense. Buying a horse isn’t like buying a tennis racket, you can’t just chuck it away if you get bored,” showjumping coach Andrew Millin from Mawdesley’s Church Farm Equestrian centre near Ormskirk says, explaining that you don’t have to spend upwards of £5million on one of Team GB’s winning horses when they’re auctioned off . “You can pick up an older horse for a few grand, but then you’ve got livery costs of £50 or so a week, so you need to be sure this is the sport for you.”
Before you invest, Andrew recommends taking a course of riding lessons at a school which provides horse and training – and fortunately, Liverpool City Council offers facilities for those of us without a hotly tipped seven year old in our stables. Beechley Road stables in Calderstones park offer riding lessons every weekend for £17.50 an hour. That’s cheaper than a bag of Waitrose organic oats. Quick, time to tighten our girth straps.
Beechley Riding Stables
“We’re stealing ourselves for a big surge in interest,” says Harriers’ secretary Mike Dooling. “It’s great when you see a Liverpool Harrier doing so well,” he says of Ennis-in-waiting Liverpool heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson (pic r) who smashed some PB’s in style a couple of weeks ago. But how, we wonder, can we decide we want to devote most of our waking hours to throwing a javelin, or perfecting our Fosbury flop? “We take people on taster sessions of all practices, and we have all the equipment needed in the Heptathlon. With the right coaching you’ll soon decide whether a single event is for you, or whether you want to become more of an all rounder.”
And what do you need to be an all-rounder? “Complete dedication, and a desire to be the best in everything you do. It’s the supreme test of the athlete.”
And failing that? “Athletics is the best and cheapest way to keep fit and healthy. Running, and taking part in communal training sessions, maybe with just the occasional competition to spice things up, is enough of a challenge without being too hard.” And with training fees at just £1 a session, who’s to say you’re not going to be the next Mo Bot?
Wavertree Athletic Complex
The events within the Olympic park’s velodrome will surely go down in sporting history – but you don’t need to spend £20,000 on a top secret carbon fibre lattice-framed bike, say the good people at Giant Bikes on Parliament Street. Nor immediately hotfoot it over to Manchester’s velodrome. Just get the right bike for you, and train hard.
“There’s always at least one rider on a mountain bike at a triathlon. Commuters assuming they need suspension forks, And hundreds of kids riding dual suspension mountain bikes around the streets with no intention of taking it off road,” says Manager John Trigg. “It’s a great idea to hire a bike before buying. Find out when the brands you’re interested in are running demo days, or if your local stores can get a demo bike in store for you to try. You can’t get a feel for a bike by riding it around a carpark. You need it for a weekend to put it through its paces, and take it to the places you
intend to take your own bike…” You can do this by checking out the network of Sustrans routes around here, too.
And one final piece of advice? “You NEED a decent pair of shorts,” he says. Never a truer word spoken, we fear.
Liverpool Bicycle Hire, at Giant Bikes, offers bike hire rates from £10 for four hours. And speak to Giant about their try before you buy schemes.
29 Parliament Street
Now offering limited memberships, Liverpool’s venerable Fulwood Shooting Club in Fazakerley is the acceptable, and responsible, side of the fine art of shooting. They offer one of the longest indoor ranges, and also make use of Formby’s outdoor range at Altcar twice a month. Membership from £10 a month.
Fulwood Shooting Club
“The thing with boxing is you’re getting fit without realising it,” says Rob Butler, from Kirkdale’s busy Rydal Gym. “You’re learning a martial art, and learning never to take people at face value. That scrawny kid with glasses on in the corner, he could be the one that takes you down.”
Occupying the site of a former bad girls’ school in Kirkdale, Rydal Gym is thriving with classes for men, women, juniors and even 65 year olds wanting to sharpen up their self defences. “Our non-contact boxing fitness classes are really popular. We’re not the sort of gym that judges anyone on what they’re wearing, or who they are. Everyone’s equal in here, and everyone is treated with respect,” he says, adding that Rydal’s professional coaches are more than man enough to make you the next Luke Campbell. Or Natasha Jones.
And if that Greco-Roman wrestling’s got you all of a dither, they’ve a wrestling room for hire too.
384 Stanley Road, Kirkdale, Liverpool.
We’ve taken the triathlon to our hearts in Liverpool. Mersey Triathlon offer full events, mini Tris, Aquathlons and training sessions across Merseyside. Membership is £20 (£10 unwaged). And, before you take the plunge, their excellent site offers lots of top tips – from nutrition to respiratory fitness (sounds a bit ominous). How to avoid the Yellow Duckmarine isn’t one of them, but we’re sure they’ve got some first hand experience of that. Go down to New Brighton this weekend to watch the Black Rock Mermaid Aquathlon, 19 August, 9am (a 400m swim and 3k run) to see if you’ve got what it takes.
You’d hope that Liverpool was well connected when it came to messing about on the river. And it is – with operators from Maximum Sailing (full day’s course for £225 for two), to the far more wallet-friendly and not-for -profit Liverpool Watersports Centre, offering inner city sailing for everyone. “It’s a new skill to learn,” says instructor Brendan Roche, “You’re outside, it’s healthy, you’re on the water and it can be totally chilled out or very exciting. But it’s always enjoyable.”
The centre provides quality instruction in water and land based activities in both hourly, half/full day and course tuition. Activities are available to the community at affordable prices. “All the gear’s here, it’s safe and clean, and everything’s provided. Just bring your clothes.” Sessions from £15.
Liverpool Watersports Centre
Queens Dock, Liverpool
One of our Olympic highlights? Seeing Flint’s gold medal winning Jade Jones cruise to victory in one of the event’s lesser-sung sports – making the 19 year old the youngest member of Team GB to become Olympic champion. A blend of karate and kickboxing, Taekwondo is Korean for ‘jump, kick, fist, art’ (which also happens to be the official SevenStreets slogan) – and is a method of unarmed self-defence. It’s also great for keeping fit, gaining confidence and remaining agile.
Liverpool Tae Kwon Do offers schools in West Derby, Walton, Kensington and Halewood. And the first lesson is free. “We aim to improve each student’s physical fitness, stamina, speed, power, strength, flexibility and technique. Classes concentrate on fitness work, practice of techniques, focus pad work, self defence and tournament sparring,” they say.
Or try the Taekwondo Academy, with two free trial sessions, from their excellently equipped training halls above Somerset House.
Liverpool Taekwondo Academy,
West Derby Road
Tel: 07954 942774
There are few better places to knock a few balls around, like you mean it, than at Bidston’s excellent Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre. The centre has six indoor and two outdoor championship standard tennis courts and is home to the Wirral-wide Tennis Development Programme – fast getting a name for its excellent coaching standards.
The programme caters for children, young people and adults, and works to help participants achieve their full potential, with lessons in term time (September) – six week courses from £5.93 a lesson. “Before you spend a couple of hundred pounds on a great racket, you can hire ours, for free. Our coaches can advise you, once they’ve seen you play, on what racket to buy,” they tell us.
Wirral Tennis and Leisure Centre
Liverpool’s Friends of Allonby canoe club offers introductory courses, general paddling (ooh, we’re good at that), and kayaking adventures on the white waters of North Wales, and the open waters of the Irish Sea, with world champion tutors. Classes available for novice to the seasoned veteran, with a range of boats, and weekly coaching sessions both indoors (at venues throughout Merseyside) and at the state of the art outdoor venue at Queens Dock.
Friends of Allonby, Liverpool Canoe Club
Liverpool Watersports Centre
Mariner’s Wharf, Liverpool
Main pic: Systemx