Olympians to get the adrenalin pumping 
in Glasgow

Jessica Ennis
Jessica Ennis
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Remember Jessica Ennis? Does the name Alistair Brownlee ring any bells? What about Nicola Adams?

They were all megastars of the golden summer of 2012, Yorkshire’s sporting heroes who captured the imagination of the public by striding triumphantly onto the top step of the Olympic podium.

Great Britain's Nicola Adams with her gold medal after her fight with China's Canacan Ren during the Women's fly 55kg  fight in he South Arena 2  in the Excel Arena, London.

Great Britain's Nicola Adams with her gold medal after her fight with China's Canacan Ren during the Women's fly 55kg fight in he South Arena 2 in the Excel Arena, London.

Yet 2013 was not so hot for any of them.

Granted, questioning whether you have forgotten them may be overstating the point, but there can be no denying that after enjoying a career-defining 2012, that trio – among others – rather came down to earth a little the following year.

They are not alone.

Sir Bradley Wiggins could do no wrong in 2012. A first British winner of the Tour de France, he added gold in the Olympic time trial, was named the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and knighted in the honours list.

In the following 12 months he could do no right, and even had to watch bitter rival Chris Froome take his yellow jersey.

When a sports person concentrates all their efforts on a single goal like an Olympic Games; as Ennis (now Ennis-Hill), Brownlee and Adams did, then a drop-off in desire and output is perhaps inevitable.

The first year after an Olympics can often be a fallow one for athletes who judge themselves in four-year cycles.

And the 12 months following London 2012 – a sporting extravaganza the like of which this country had never witnessed – can only exacerbate that.

So an Olympic champion has to find new goals, set themselves new challenges.

Alistair Brownlee, 25, revealed he has done that in his post-Olympic press conference, saying he is targeting the 10,000m on the track as the next discipline he hopes to dominate.

That kept him fresh, yet his 2013 campaign was blighted more by physical torment than mental distractions, with a persistent ankle injury undermining a challenge for a third world triathlon title that he still managed defiantly to take to the final race of the season.

Ennis-Hill, 27, also endured a season of frustration with injuries, and managed only a few days of competition before bowing out before the world championships because she was in no position to try to regain her global heptathlon title.

Adams, 31, won gold in the only championships she contested, retaining her European Union title in Hungary last summer.

Although immensely creditable and testament to her dedication in the gym, it was hardly the most famous follow-up blow to the knockout punch she landed at the ExCel Arena 18 months ago.

What these three need is a major championships to stir the passions and ignite the fires again.

Thank heavens then for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this coming summer. The old Empire Games have dropped down the list of priorities in recent times, with the 2010 edition in Delhi one avoided by many, including Ennis-Hill.

But on the back of the euphoria of London, a major championship on as close to home soil as it gets has got the adrenalin pumping again.

Ennis-Hill is chasing the only gold medal she has yet to win, while Alistair Brownlee and his brother Jonny are revelling in the prospect of being the first triathlon champions in the sport’s Commonwealth debut. There is also a team triathlon in which the Leeds brothers are likely to be unstoppable.

Adams, similarly, has the chance to carve another slice of history. In 2012, she became the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title. She can produce a similar feat by becoming the first Commonwealth women’s boxing champion in Glasgow.

All that would be incentive enough for our golden trio to rise to the heights again. But throw in a European Athletics Championships for Ennis-Hill, a World Series title for Alistair to regain, and an elusive first world championship gold medal for Adams to pursue this year and there is enough there to guarantee a return to the sporting spotlight for this county’s superstars.

But it is not just those three with cause to be motivated as 2014 dawns. The Commonwealth Games provides the mountain top to be scaled for the region’s squash stars, with Sheffield’s Nick Matthew and Pontefract’s James Willstrop in particular given extra incentive to land a prize that in their sport is the very pinnacle, given the constant snubbing they receive at the hands of the International Olympic Committee which does not deem their sport to be suitable for their own Games.

Our aquatics stars on the verge of breaking into the big time – particularly the divers from the City of Leeds club – can make a name for themselves in the race to the Rio Olympics of 2016 in Glasgow this summer.

If 2013 has been tough, 2014 promises more riches for this county’s golden generation.

Yet two men who deserve mention for sustaining their drive and their brilliance, even in the down years, are the White Rose’s indefatigable heroes, Ed Clancy and Andrew Triggs Hodge.

While some slowed last year, they just kept on winning.

Track cyclist Clancy, 28, won a world championship silver medal less than six months after claiming a second successive team pursuit Olympic gold. Then he went and earned a third European title, among the many other honours he claimed in 2013.

After contemplating retirement, rower Hodge stepped out of the men’s four and back into the eight, inspiring his crew to break the stranglehold of the German boat known as the Deutsche Achte and win a first world title at that discipline. It was also Hodge’s first global gold for seven years.

There is no rowing in the Commonwealth Games but look to Hodge, 34, to continue his journey to sporting immortality in 2014. Just as all our sporting heroes will.

nick.westby@ypn.co.uk