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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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My Olympics, by Alan Wills

HAVING a beer with Sir Chris Hoy; mingling with Mo Farah and Tom Daley watching Take That and The Who in full flow; and sharing a laugh with Russell Brand – what better way to spend a Sunday night?

Copeland’s own double Olympian, archer Alan Wills, took his place as a proud member of Team GB for Sunday’s spectacular closing ceremony, bringing the curtain down on what are being called the greatest Games in history.

“To be part of the closing ceremony was absolutely amazing,” said Alan, who has returned home to Frizington following his unforgettable time competing in the capital. “The atmosphere was electric; the way the stadium was lit up was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything on that scale.”

Particularly special for Alan was Team GB’s entrance into the Olympic Stadium.

“We were kept waiting outside, and then, while the other countries came into the stadium the normal way, we entered through the crowd. That was a really nice touch, to be able to be so close to the fans and shake their hands and them patting you on the back as you walked through; it was a real highlight.”

Once inside, with everyone from George Michael to Muse and Liam Gallagher to the Spice Girls belting out the hits, Alan enjoyed the ceremony in the company of his fellow GB stars, who had between them achieved a record medal haul of 65, including 29 golds.

“We all just stuck together at the ceremony, as a real team. Everyone was having their pictures taken with everyone else, and I stood watching part of the show with Mo Farah and Tom Daley, who is a truly nice lad. For only 18, the way he carries himself is amazing.

“Everyone deserved to be there to celebrate competing in the Olympics – many winning medals – and achieving the pinnacle of their careers.”

One such competitor is cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, now Great Britain’s most-decorated Olympian, who Alan enjoyed a drink with during a post-ceremony after-party that was held for Team GB in the village.

“He’s such a nice bloke. We had met in Beijing when we were staying in the same building four years ago, so it was good to catch up. A real down-to-earth character.

“So was Russell Brand, who stopped us to chat with us as we were passing on Sunday night and wanted his picture taken with us.”

Unfortunately for Alan, his schedule meant that he could not attend the Games’ opening ceremony – he was competing at Lord’s the following morning. “It was a shame, but competing comes first,” he said.

In fact, Alan finished competing on August 1, meaning he had a week-and-a-half to wait until the closing ceremony.

“I had a bit of hanging about to do, but the closing ceremony was worth the wait. We got to see some other sports, but not as many as we would have liked. But we were in the stadium for the 100m final [the much-hyped showdown between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake]. We were right next to the torch and the finishing line; absolutely unbelievable!”

In terms of his own sport, Alan unfortunately fell at the first hurdles in the team event to Ukraine (223-212), and to Australian Taylor Worth (in a one-arrow shoot-out) in the individuals.

As a two-time field archery world champion, Alan says he was disappointed not to have won a medal, but nevertheless loved the experience of competing before a partisan home crowd at Lord’s cricket ground.

“I’ve shot in front of big crowds before but that was something else. The crowd was so close – only metres from you – and they were so well-behaved and so quiet when they had to be, but then erupted when you hit a good shot. I can’t quite describe how good the atmosphere was.”

So back home and back down to earth for Alan – but not quite yet. On his arrival back in Cumbria on Monday, he was treated to a surprise welcome home street party by his girlfriend Gail Eastham in her hometown of Lazonby, near Penrith.

“It was a long journey home, I was tired and cranky, but then I got back and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; they’d closed streets off, there was a brass band, and all the people who came out; it was an absolutely brilliant night.”

After a little post-Olympics down time, Alan is back in training – at Langwathby when he’s in the Penrith area, and at Sellafield Archery Club when he’s back home. The target – the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“All the blood, sweat and tears, the nights after nights spent practising in my cold garage, just to reach the pinnacle of your sport. But I have to say that it’s all worth it.”

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