Giants scheme helps Hicks grow into Olympic prospect

ON THE RIGHT WAVE LEGNTH: Ben Hicks who is hopeful of making the 2012 Team GB rowing squad. Picture by Mark Westley
ON THE RIGHT WAVE LEGNTH: Ben Hicks who is hopeful of making the 2012 Team GB rowing squad. Picture by Mark Westley
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FOUR years ago visions of making an appearance at the 2012 London Olympic Games was something not on the mind of Newmarket rower Ben Hicks.

A county swimmer for Suffolk, Hicks’ name was not among those being touted out as someone who could be flying the flag for Team GB in the pool at the 2012 games.

However, all that was to change for the 27 year old in February 2007 after successfully coming through the first round of UK Sports Sporting Giant scheme, a programme aimed at identifying those over 6ft 3ins, and with potential in the fields of rowing, handball and volleyball.

Now an established member of British Rowing’s World Class Start Programme, hopes are high that he will be among the lucky few to represent his country at his home Olympics and live every athlete’s dream.

“I’d never rowed before but the Sporting Giants scheme appealed to me straight away,” said Hicks.

“As soon as I got through the first stage I thought to myself the sort of things that I could achieve and what a fantastic journey could be ahead of me.”

Last year the Loughborough University graduate highlighted just why he was selected to join the World Class Start Programme after enjoying his best year to date in a boat.

Securing a gold medal in the men’s open single scull contest at the British Rowing Championships in Glasgow, Hicks, who works for Cambridge-based engineering firm ARM, took his form to a new level later in the year when appearing at the Commonwealth Rowing Championships in Welland, Canada.

After claiming a silver medal with a second place in the final of the 2k single sculls, the former Newmarket Swimming Club member then added to it by taking bronze in the 500m sprint doubles competition with Elliot Barton.

Fuelled by growing confidence, Hicks saved his best until last when teaming up with Barton once more to hit the jackpot and strike gold in the 2k men’s doubles final.

With his form at an all-time high Hicks continued his progression up the rowing ladder after flying through the early rounds of last year’s Team GB open trials, so much so that he was invited to take on the current members of the squad. But cruelly for Hicks his chance of taking on the best off the best was taken away from him after being sidelined with a hip injury.

“Unfortunately for me the trials come just a week after having an operation on my hip, so it meant I was on crutches instead of on the water.

“Although that was a blow at the same time it showed me that until my injury I had the speed and performance in me to involve me in the trial.”

Over recent weeks the Isle of Ely Rowing Club member has been putting in the hours during training as he prepares for this month’s Team GB first round trials in Boston, his first major test since returning from injury.

“I am well on course for the trials. The operation has definitely helped my flexibility and has improved my techniques.

“The first test of the trials is two kilometre rowing machine test which has to be completed in under six minutes ten seconds. I will be disappointed if I can’t come through that. Ideally I would like to break the six minute barrier instead of just scrapping under the required time.”

“The five kilometre open water row should prove no problems the next day should I make it through the first day. All in all it will tell me a lot of where I am and where I need to be at.”

“In all honesty my heart is set on going to the games but at the same time I am being realistic as there is still a long way to go yet.”