Interviews

Lighting the flame for Oxford

Charley Turton speaks to Aidan Reynolds, a fresher at University College, about lighting the flame at the Olympic opening ceremony

aidan

 

It was one of the most closely guarded secrets of the London 2012 Olympic Games, with Steve Redgrave, Prince William and David Beckham all becoming objects of speculation. In the end, however, the organisers of the games decided to substantiate their tagline, “Inspire a generation,” with a bold gesture and selected a group of six young athletes from around the country to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony. Aidan Reynolds, a first year Physicist and javelin thrower from University College, was one of them.

“Each of us were selected by a British Olympic Legend in recognition of our potential to go ahead and compete at a future Olympic Games. I was selected by Lynn Davies, a Welsh Long Jumper who was a former Olympic Champion in 1964.”

Competing in Macedonia at the time, Aidan received a phone call asking him to take part in the monumental event, but was not told the whole story.

“I found out I was going to be involved in the ceremony two weeks before but did not find out my actual role in the ceremony until I stood in the stadium for our first rehearsal!”

The chosen six spent a week in London during the run-up to the ceremony, attending four one-hour rehearsals where they practised with sticks before getting their hands on the real torches.

“It was a huge secret and nobody was allowed to know. We were only allowed to bring one person with us so I took my sister…not even my parents knew what I would be doing until it happened. Keeping a close eye on the betting for who would be lighting the cauldron and talking very loudly about it kept us all amused whenever we were out and about!”

So, how did it feel to play a starring role in “the greatest show on earth”?

“I can’t explain how amazing it was. From the moment I got the news I was buzzing for the whole week. [It was] something I will never forget; to be given that honour is unbelievable and just being in that stadium was the greatest experience. Let’s just hope I can make another opening ceremony in the future, only next time as an athlete.”

With the European Junior Championships and the 2014 Commonwealth Games both coming up, Aidan is training for two-hour sessions 12 times a week and says he’s just about managing to juggle javelin with his academic work.

“The hardest part is travelling to Loughborough every weekend to meet my coach because otherwise while I am at uni I get no coaching and have to motivate and work everything out for myself.”

On the subject of his own Olympic ambitions, Aidan is reluctant to commit himself to the Rio 2016 Games, but it is safe to say that a second appearance in an Olympic opening ceremony is well and truly on the table.

“2016 is a possibility but possibly too early for me as in javelin it is unlikely you’ll peak until you are at least in your late 20s, but I am keeping it on the horizon and definitely looking towards 2020 if not 2016.”

PHOTO / Aidan Reynolds

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