7 Days To Go To The Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Games

The Big Read

Expect the unexpected at European Championship Trials

By Mike Rowbottom

As Britain’s leading athletes set about gaining their places for the European Championships at the Aviva European trials and UK Championships in Birmingham, here’s the question: Who’s it going to be?

Because every year someone, in some event, pops up with something gloriously unexpected. And that uncertainty adds immeasurably to the anticipation of this annual examination of athletics credentials.

Taylor hoping to help British sport speed to success at London 2012

By Mike Rowbottom

Graham Taylor didn’t get where he is today - UK Sport’s recently appointed Head of Coaching - by being imprecise.

Before being annexed by the man to whom he will be reporting, UK Sport’s director of Performance, Peter Keen, Taylor had more than 20 years of experience in top class motor sport, much of it as a race engineer in Formula One and World Touring Cars.

Fearless Winckless set to continue her incredible journey in new BOA role

By Cathy Wood

Spend any time around Sarah Winckless at Eton Dorney Lake - the venue for the rowing events at London 2012 - and rowers gravitate towards her.

Old and young, international and recreational, short and tall they want to say hello and share their experience of rowing on the river that had such significance during Winckless's racing career.

It's not just her stature - 6 foot 3 inches - or sheer physical presence, it's her pleasant, put-you-at-your-ease, I-know-what-it's-like attitude that draws them in.

Dealing with the pressures of London 2012 will be one of biggest challenges for British competitors warns new gymnatics chief

By Mike Rowbottom

One of the reasons Tim Brabants, Britain’s kayaking gold medallist at the Beijing Games, decided to remove himself for a third time from his medical career to have one more bash at the Olympics in London was a conversation he had with some Australian fellow competitors.

They told him that taking part in a home Games, as they did in Sydney ten years ago, multiplied the Olympic experience "by tenfold".

By the same token, however, the pressure of expectation on home performers also rises exponentially.

With the death of Juan Antonio Samaranch the Olympic Movement has lost its greatest servant since De Coubertin

By David Owen

It was on a sultry Moscow Monday nearly nine years ago, in the pistachio and white splendour of the Hall of Columns on the fringes of the Kremlin, that the Samaranch era appeared to draw to a close.

That was where the election of Jacques Rogge, the then 80-year-old Juan Antonio Samaranch’s successor as International Olympic Committee President, was announced with all the solemnity of a state investiture.

That event constituted my baptism into the mysterious ways of the Olympic Movement.

Townend must dodge cloud to fulfil chance of a lifetime in Kentucky

By Mike Rowbottom

The volcanic cloud bedevilling European airspace is threatening to prevent Oliver Townend fulfilling an ambition this week that has only been achieved by one other three-day event rider.

Having established himself at the top of his profession at the age of 26 by winning at Badminton and Burghley last year, Townend is geeing himself up to complete the Rolex Grand Slam by winning in Lexington, Kentucky this week, which would earn him a £233,000 ($358,000) jackpot and match the performance of his compatriot Pippa Funnell in 2003.

Townend’s two horses for this event - Ashdale Cruise Master and ODT Master Rose - await him in the United States. As does the chance of a lifetime. If air traffic continues to be halted in Britain, he plans to cross over to Ireland and fly from there.

Prince Feisal using Olympism to help promote world peace

By Duncan Mackay

Prince Feisal Al Hussein of Jordan, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) newest member, is a passionate believer in sport’s power to change the world however deep the grudges run.

Bordered by Syria to the north, Iraq to the northeast, Saudi Arabia to the east and south and Israel to the west, the Prince probably knows more than most about how conflict can rip the heart out of a region.

But Prince Feisal, the younger brother of Jordanian King Abdulla II and among the new intake of IOC members during the Vancouver Olympics, has been practicing what he preaches through his fledgling Generations for Peace project, which has already brought together thousands of children from 31 conflict-prone countries.

Sonia O'Sullivan is passing her experience onto a new generation for London 2012

By Mike Rowbottom

There is just a little suggestion of poacher-turned-gamekeeper about the overall team coach/manager for the Australian team at this weekend’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz.

Twelve years ago, this team manager went directly against team orders in going for the double at the World Cross Country Championships in Marrakesh - and won both her events.

You can keep Florida and South Africa, Yorkshire is where my heart is says Brownlee

Meeting Alistair Brownlee, Britain’s 21-year-old world triathlon champion, brings to mind the phrase "fresh-faced". It is a description that might have been invented just for him, although "fresh-air faced" would probably be even more accurate.

As he is proud to declare, Brownlee - who looks likely to be one of Britain’s brightest Olympic contenders on home soil two years hence - has been inspired over the years by training in the bracing environs of the Yorkshire Moors and dales near to where he lives in Otley Chevin, near Leeds.

Sport is part of Qatar's vision claims Sheikh Saoud

By David Owen in Doha

In his office high above the arena in Qatar where the cream of the world’s athletics talent is doing battle, Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani is a satisfied man.

“We are very happy that the IAAF have given us the chance to organise the 13th edition of the World Indoor Championships and to make Doha the capital of athletics in 2010,” the Secretary General of the Qatar Olympic Committee and President of the Doha 2010 organising committee says.

Somewhere down to the right of where we are sitting, Jessica Ennis, the British heptathlete, has just sailed over 1.90 meres in the high-jump phase of the women’s pentathlon event. To the left, a full-sized indoor football stadium is doing service as a warm-up area and is cluttered with exercising athletes and the trappings of their trade.

Olympic fever is condition even Doctor Brabants cannot cure

By Mike Rowbottom

Here’s the problem for Tim Brabants. He’s a brilliant doctor. But he’s also a brilliant athlete.

And although Roger Bannister managed to combine these two vocations to good effect in the 1950s, albeit only briefly, it is a task that is no longer realistic. Just ask Curtis Robb, the 1992 Olympic 800 metres finalist who struggled unsuccessfully to double up for the best part of a decade before retiring from international athletics.

Which is why Brabants, now 33, has just shifted his area of operation from the High Dependency Unit at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham to the stretch of the Thames next to the Royal Canoe Club in Kingston - lured, irresistibly, by the prospect of competing in Olympic kayaking two years down the line in his home city.

Eley promises to raise above the madness to win a medal in Vancouver

The temporary marquees set up around a temporary ice rink next to London’s Somerset House are heaving with a temporary crush of people as the British Olympic Association offers the media a chance to interview key members of its team for the forthcoming Winter Games.

A shoal of reporters switch from sportsperson to sportsperson, in turn signalling feeding opportunities for bigger fish - the TV camera crews, with their glaring lights and furry booms.

Amid the melee, Jon Eley seems right at home. But then, as a short track speed skater, he’s used to hurly-burly.

Murdoch hoping evoke the spirit of Rhona Martin in Vancouver

By Mike Rowbottom

Clad in their official tracksuits, the men and women due to compete for Britain in the curling at the Vancouver Winter Olympics have the air of an excited school party as they sweep - appropriately enough - through the lobby of the London Heathrow Sofitel hotel.

At least one of the women looks young enough to be still at school. It turns out she is the new wunderkind of the sport, Eve Muirhead, who is about to be officially named as skip for the British team at the age of 19.

The men present more familiar faces. Euan Byers and David Murdoch, from neighbouring farms in Lockerbie, are in the quartet which, with travelling reserve Graeme Connal, will seek to replicate their success in the last big championship on Canadian soil - or rather, ice - when they won the world title last year.

The British couple hoping to put the flesh on Britain's skeleton medal hopes in Vancouver

By Tom Degun

When I met the woman currently ranked the second best female skeleton athlete on the planet in Bath not too long ago, my immediate thought was that Shelley Rudman is far too intelligent and attractive to be involved in such a ludicrously dangerous sport.

Tall and slender in build with long dark hair, a friendly smile and incredibly articulate, Rudman is not what I believed an elite skeleton rider would look like. However, once we began to talk about her beloved sport, a fierce determination in her demeanour becomes quickly apparent and one glance in to her unusually focused eyes informs me that I am in the company of a truly tenacious competitor.

Ten memories that shaped the noughties

By Mike Rowbottom

Now that the first sporting decade of the millennium is at its close

Chris Hoy Miracle of Istanbul Tiger Woods Lance Armstrong 2005 Ashes Steve Redgrave Usain Bolt Roger Federer Kelly Holmes Michael Phelps London 2012 Cathy Freeman Jonny Wilkinson Brazil Italy Jenson Button

it is a good moment to pause and reflect upon

Bradley Wiggins Tom Watson Matthew Pinsent Rafael Nadal Paula Radcliffe Ian Thorpe Greece Spain Justine Henin Ryan Giggs Joe Calzaghe Michael Schumacher Phil Taylor