THERE are now just six months to go before the eyes of the world focus on the Olympic Stadium in London, and Milton Keynes has at least six athletes with realistic chances of walking out there for the opening ceremony.
Probably the city’s best medal prospect for the 2012 Games is long-jumper Greg Rutherford from Bletchley.
The 25-year-old is no stranger to the big occasion having competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as well as other major Championships.
He took silver at the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg, and a leap of 8.30m at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009 gave him the British long-jump record.
He then claimed another silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, and went into last year’s World Championships in Daegu as a serious contender for gold.
However, a hamstring tear in qualifying ended his competition early – a couple of months after rival Chris Tomlinson broke his national record with a jump of 8.35m.
But Rutherford is fighting fit again and is determined to fulfil the potential he’s widely accepted as having. He reached a career high ranking of 9th in the world before the 2011 World Championships.
He’s currently ranked 10th, but more importantly has the A qualification standard for London of 8.20m, meaning that only injury will realistically prevent him from competing at the Games.
The British qualification period for London began in May 2011 and javelin thrower Mervyn Luckwell is the other city athlete to have reached the A standard.
The 27-year-old threw a massive 83.52m last year – well inside the required 82m – and is currently ranked 22nd in the world.
He also looks set to represent Britain in the greatest show on earth, provided that he finishes in the top two at a UK Athletics Olympic Trial coming up in the early summer.
On the athletics front, Craig Pickering and Chris Clarke also have a chance of wearing the red, white and blue again.
The pair both performed well at last year’s World Championships in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays respectively and also have two B qualification standard runs for London, making them eligible for selection, but they still have work to do.
Away from athletics but also set for London is table tennis star Andrew Baggaley. He’s Britain’s most successful ever player at the Commonwealth Games with five medals, and gets his first chance to book a place in the competition at the ExCeL Arena with a European qualifier in April.
Last but not least is handball goalkeeper Bobby White who will captain Britain’s team in their debut Olympic Games, qualifying for the tournament as the host nation.
He took over the captaincy last summer after four years with the national side and was previously a goalkeeper for Newport Pagnell Town FC.