Wearside Olympians: Who’s competing in Rio and when can I see them on TV?

Boxers Pat McCormack, left, and Josh Kelly.
Boxers Pat McCormack, left, and Josh Kelly.
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Five of Wearside’s top sporting talents are hoping to do their region proud as they ready themselves for three of the biggest weeks of their lives.

Aly Dixon, Kat Driscoll, Will Fletcher, Josh Kelly and Pat McCormack are all in Rio, Brazil, to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Games.

Runner Aly Dixon.

Runner Aly Dixon.

The opening ceremony of the sporting extravaganza will take place tonight at the Maracana Stadium as the Games get off to a glitzy start.

Here are Wearside’s sporting stars who will be hoping to lead the way...

ALY DIXON

37, Sunderland

Trampoline competitor Kat Driscoll.

Trampoline competitor Kat Driscoll.

Marathon

Talk about arriving late to the party, Sunderland’s marathon great has reached the greatest show on earth at the age of 37 years young.

Dixon joins a long line of North East middle and long- distance runners to have made it to the Olympics.

She clocked the qualifying time via her run at the Berlin Marathon, but the diminutive Mackem captured her place and the headlines when she was the first British finisher at the Virgin London Marathon in April.

Rower Will Fletcher.

Rower Will Fletcher.

Aly, a full-time athlete who works as a coach (a job she does online!) has prepared for Rio by training at altitude at Font Romeu, in the French Pyrenees, with Mo Farah and Paul Radcliffe no less.

She tuned up with a good run at the European half-marathon, finishing 13th in a 90-strong field in Amsterdam in a time of 72.47 last month.

Marathon running is in the blood of the Silksworth girl, who took up running because her dad, David, was a top local athlete and her late uncle, Derek, was also a marathon runner.

She may be closer to the end of her career than the start but an Olympic place is just reward for the Sunderland Stroller.

Prospects: On paper, top 20 at Rio would represent a great result and top 10 would be out of this world.

Did you know: Proud Sunderland girl Aly crosses the line doing a ‘Borini celebration’ in tribute to the Black Cats striker.

When you can see her on TV: The BBC is the home of the Olympic Games, and you can catch Aly in the women’s marathon from 1.30pm on Sunday, August 14.

KAT DRISCOLL

30, West Rainton

Trampoline gymnastics

Beneath her slightly-built frame is an incredible and highly-skilled competitor.

The County Durham trampolinist was told by several detractors in her younger years that she should give up and try something else, while other sceptics claimed she would be ‘past it’ by the time Rio came around.

Well, she has now shown them! Kat is just days away from her second Olympic Games, the first British trampolinist to boast that feat.

Driscoll made her debut at London 2012, missing out on a place in the final by the tiniest of fractions, 0.01 points!

But the 30-year-old goes into these Games as Britain’s form trampolinist, having finished seventh at the World Championships and then clinched a bronze medal at the European Championships.

Kat, who is coached by husband Gary, is at the top of her game when may have long since retired.

“Age, to me, is just a number,” she told the Echo. “My body and mind are in good places and I think I am jumping the best I’ve jumped in a long time.”

Prospects: Given her form over the last year, Kat should finish in the top 10 to qualify for the final.

Did you know: Kat left home in Kent aged 18 to base herself at the Apollo Club at Washington Leisure Centre in her bid to achieve her dream.

When you can see her on TV: Kat will compete in the women’s trampoline on Friday, August 12, with qualification to take place at 6.03pm an the final from 7.42pm.

WILL FLETCHER

26, Chester-le-Street

Rowing

What is the old Olympic joke about Britain only being able to win medals in events that involve sitting down?

It is only overseas jealousy at Team GB’s prowess in canoeing, cycling and rowing!

And a talented athlete from our patch is looking to carry on that Great British tradition after being selected for the rowing team.

Fletcher will be teaming up with London 2012 medallist Richard Chambers in the men’s lightweight double scull in Brazil.

Just like the Sunderland marathon runner Aly, Will’s sporting success comes from some family inspiration; sister Frances was an U23 World silver medallist in 2005.

Will took up the sport at Tyne Rowing Club and has not looked back since, progressing quickly into international junior competition.

Fletcher won a gold medal at the 2010 World U23 Championships and last year won silver at the full World and European Championships.

Will, who attended Park View School, in Chester-le-Street, is a natural on the water who has won three successive Henley Royal Regattas.

Prospects: On the evidence of his silver medal at last season’s worlds, he and his partner should be contenders for one of the top medals.

Did you know: As a youngster, Will’s dream was to play football for his beloved Newcastle United

When you can see him on TV: Heat 1 in the men’s lightweight double sculls takes place on Sunday, August 7 at 3.20pm, with the rest of the heats taking place within half-an-hour of that. If he continues to progress through the competition, the final is on Friday, August 12 at 2.04pm.

JOSH KELLY

22, Sunderland

Boxing

Josh Kelly will be battling it out with team-mate Pat McCormack to be Wearside’s first boxing medallist since Tony Jeffries clinched bronze in Beijing eight years ago.

Supremely gifted, Kelly has come through some serious challenges to make it to his first Olympics, in and out of the ring.

The 22-year-old, from Ryhope, looked to have the world at his feet when he won bronze at his first major international senior tournament, the 2015 European Games, and then was a quarter-finalist at the World Championships.

But a winter injury saw Josh lose his way, and while he was out, he went out! He partied with pals instead of training and ended up piling on the weight.

Finally, the penny dropped after a heart-to-heart with dad Paul, the man who coached him from being a youngster at Houghton ABC.

Not only did the penny drop, but so did his weight, and British coaches selected him for the World Olympic qualifier in June and Kelly did not let them down, winning a bronze medal in Baku in the welterweight division.

Prospects: Kelly is talented with a capital T and should reach at least the quarter-finals with potential to medal.

Did you know: A good-looking, fit fella, Josh has worked as a male model.

When you can see him on TV: Josh is taking part in the welter 69kg event, with the round of 32 taking place on Sunday, August 7, from 3.45pm. If he progresses all the way, he will take part in the final on Wednesday, August 17 at 8.30pm.

PAT McCORMACK

21, Washington

Boxing

Pat McCormack has arrived in Rio as one of the top performers in the light-welterweight division and a favourite for a medal.

The Washington boxer has enjoyed an outstanding season, his only defeat being a shock exit at the European Olympic qualifier earlier in the year.

McCormack said he was “too tense” and, despite the intense pressure at the World Olympic qualifier in Baku in June, he relaxed and let his boxing do the talking.

The Birtley ABC star did not lose a single round all week and clinched the U64 kilo gold by beating Richardson Hitchins, of Haiti, in the final.

McCormack was undefeated for Great Britain during the World Series of Boxing competition – a bit like the Formula 1 of boxing – inspiring the Lionhearts to the final.

A top European and World performer at youth level, Pat has transferred that form into the seniors.

“This season, I’ve had 13 bouts and won 12, against top opposition. I’m not worried about anyone,” he told the Echo.

Prospects: In one word: Medal. Unless any misfortune strikes, he has the ability to go all the way.

Did you know: Twin brother Luke won gold at the Olympic Test event in Rio in the winter but missed out on selection for the Games itself.

When you can see him on TV: Pat will compete in the light welter 64kg, which begins on Wednesday, August 10 at 4.15pm. The final is on Sunday, August 21 from 7pm.