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Blackheath and Bromley Harriers a breeding ground for Olympic medal hopefuls

09:32 27 July 2012

PA Wire/Press Association Images

For almost 150 years Blackheath and Bromley Harriers athletics club has produced sportsmen and women who have etched their names into the Olympic history books.

This year will be no different as it propels two medal hopefuls into the London Games – Adam Gemili, the 18-year-old 100m sprinter grabbing at the headlines for breaking world records, and marathon man Scott Overall.

Both worked tirelessly for selection to Team GB at the club’s track, Norman Park, in Hayes Lane, Bromley.

Pat Calnan, men’s senior team manager, says: “Adam joined us last April and has progressed a huge amount. He was fast to begin with, but with some proper coaching he has steadily cut his time down.

“He has potential to go under 10 seconds. If he does that, it will be a tremendous achievement for him.”

Explaining the club’s success, Pat said: “Year on year we find new athletes and progress the ones we currently have.

“Our women’s team at junior level have been champions for the past few years and our men’s team enjoyed a similar success in the 1990s.

“When you’re successful at junior level, it breeds success in the future.”

Originally formed in October 1869 as the Peckham Hare and Hounds, the Harriers would later relocate to Bromley – although it wasn’t until March 2003 that Blackheath merged with Bromley Athletics Club to become the organisation we know today.

Stretching back to 1937, the club has produced record-breaking track athletes such as Sidney “The Mighty Atom” Wooderson – who held the world record for the fastest mile for almost five years.

Former Harriers’ coach John Powell recalled the club when he joined in 1978, overseeing young athletes including Dwayne Grant, who went to the Athens games in 2004, and long distance runner Michael Skinner.

“When I arrived there we had just four athletes and we built up the youth scheme until it certainly became the most successful scheme in the country,” John said. “We started going to the national finals, where we were initially eighth, then seventh and sixth in our first three years, before we won it three years on the spin.”

Overall converted from track to road and has competed in just one marathon – in Berlin last year.

He earned himself a British squad place with a time of 2:10.55.

“He made the decision a year ago that he would have a crack at the Berlin marathon and see if he could get an Olympic time,” said Pat. “He joined us a bit later in his life, but just wanted to be part of the organisation because of its success. He’s been with us for about eight years now.

“There will be strong competition from the USA and probably Japan, but I think he’ll beat his previous time. He might just surprise a few people – he’s a strong sprint finisher.”

Excitement has spread around the club as the Games approached and with a home crowd cheering them on, Pat’s Harriers have a head-start in bringing glory back to Bromley.

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