Halifax Emmerdale actor Rebecca Sarker competing in celebrity The Games inspired by Olympics

The Games’s celebrity contestants have just weeks to master some of the toughest sports of the Olympics. Rachael Davis finds out how it’s all going.

Normally it takes years, if not decades to train to be an Olympic athlete. However, the celebrity contestants on ITV’s The Games have just five weeks to prepare to compete across 10 track and field sports before going head-to-head on live TV to win the gold medal.

The 12 super-fit celebrities will battle it out over a week of live programming from May 9, competing in events including diving, cycling, running and weightlifting, each trying to rack up enough points to get them to the top of the medals table and crowned Champion of The Games 2022.

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HOST: Former international cricketer Freddie Flintoff will be presenting the show. Picture: Isabel Infantes/PA

“To do a show like this, you need to have real commitment and drive,” explains The Games presenter Holly Willoughby, 41. “They’re a really fantastic bunch. There’s 12 of them, there are 10 events that they’re going to be competing in, so there’s a lot for them to do. But ultimately, one of them will be crowned the champion.”

Among those preparing to hit the athletics track, dive into the swimming pool and climb onto the bike saddle is Halifax-born Emmerdale actor Rebecca Sarker. The 46-year-old is one of the hosts’ favourites to win.

“The thing is, I am not sporty!” Sarker says. “I don’t feel sporty, I never was sporty at school. I’m active, but that’s not the same as sporty – sporty involves skill, I feel. And competitiveness. I don’t think I have either of those. But I’m learning – I’m 46, it’s never too late.”

The other contestants are ex-Love Islanders Wes Nelson and Olivia Attwood, former Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas, Harry Potter actor Josh Herdman, model and autism ambassador Christine McGuinness, and The Wanted star Max George.

Also joining them are footballer and singer-songwriter Chelcee Grimes, ex-Strictly pro Kevin Clifton, Corrie actor Colson Smith, ITV newsreader Lucrezia Millarini, and influencer, model and daughter of Leeds Spice Girl Mel B, Phoenix Brown.

Joining Willoughby as a live host is former international cricketer Freddie Flintoff, while ex-England footballer and TV presenter Alex Scott will be trackside reporter, getting all the action as it happens, and former Leeds United footballer Chris Kamara will commentate.

They’ll be joined by YouTube star and sports fan Yung Filly, Olympic commentator Simon Brotherton, and a panel of sporting legends each night, with the week ending in a thrilling final that will crown one male winner and one female winner.

So, how are the celebs coping with the pressure of the competition so far? “Competition, for me, brings out the best and the worst,” laughs The Games host and cricket star Flintoff, 44.

“As a sportsman, I thrived on competition – I always thought it was ‘win at all costs’.

“But spending time with the lads last week, when I went to watch them do the hammer and the hurdles, everyone’s encouraging each other, getting on really nicely, supporting each other. But there is that underlying competition, where everybody wants to win.”

"It’s going to be interesting to see how each person adapts,” Flintoff adds. “I think everyone’s looking at a different discipline and thinking, ‘That’s the one where I’ll excel’. Colson likes the canoeing, the kayaking, Christine McGuinness has the weightlifting, Wes on the hurdle.”

Each of the contestants has had to put their all into the gruelling training weeks ahead of the live shows. “It has been a real commitment to learn so many different disciplines in a short amount of time, and to take on all of that information,” says Scott. “But it’s going to be different for every single one of them.”

The Games starts Monday, May 9 at 9pm on ITV.