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With the Paris 2024 Olympic Games now 50 days from beginning, Mno Sports News' Geraint Hughes discusses five issues to ponder...

Opening Ceremony doubts

As it stands the Opening Ceremony of Paris 2024 on Friday July 26 will take place on the River Seine, but a number of concerns remain around the security of both athletes and spectators, with organisers admitting to Mno Sports News in March they had a 'plan A, B, C, D & so on' when it came to what the Opening Ceremony would look like.

It has been scaled back already, originally 700,000 people were going to be able to witness all the athletes move along on barges and boats down a 6km stretch of the Seine, where they will alight at the Eiffel Tower and move up to the Trocadero.

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Plans are for the opening ceremony to Paris 2024 to take place along the River Seine, but there have already been changesPlans are for the opening ceremony to Paris 2024 to take place along the River Seine, but there have already been changes
Plans are for the opening ceremony to Paris 2024 to take place along the River Seine, but there have already been changes

While the hope is that the athletes will still parade down that 6km course, the number of people able to see it has been drastically cut to approximately 300,000, with all spectators now ticketed, some free, some paid for.

That means the organisers, and perhaps more pertinently the police and security forces, know exactly who will be in attendance.

While several plans are in play for the Opening Ceremony along the River Seine, there is a fallback. It's one organisers don't want, but the traditional curtain raiser for an Olympics could be moved to a traditional stadium venue, most likely the Stade de France.

Safety threat levels

This has been high, remains at the highest alert level possible and will do so throughout the Games. The Paris 2024 Olympics will be the largest global sporting event on the planet this year, and as such in the uncertain times we live in, becomes a target for either individuals or groups who know a huge focus of the world's attention will be on Paris during July and August.

The Olympic Games has been targeted before. At the 1972 Munich Games, a terrorist group called Black September took a number of Israeli athletes and coaches hostage. It tragically ended with the killing of 11 Israelis and a west German police officer.

Mno Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes travelled to Paris for the unveiling of safety plans by the French Government and Olympic organisation

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Mno Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes travelled to Paris for the unveiling of safety plans by the French Government and Olympic organisation
Mno Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes travelled to Paris for the unveiling of safety plans by the French Government and Olympic organisation

At the 1996 Atlanta Games in the USA, a bomb exploded at Centennial Park killing one and injuring 11. It was deemed a 'domestic terrorist pipe' bombing. A security guard named Richard Jewell prevented many more casualties after he discovered the bomb and began clearing spectators out of the park.

Last month, French security services arrested a teenager in Saint-Etienne suspected of plotting an attack on a football game being played during the Olympic tournament in the city, with the French authorities believing he intended to attack spectators and security forces.

The absence of Mbappe

Paris 2024 had hoped Kylian Mbappe would be one of the faces of the Games. A French sports star competing at a home Games in their home city. Not to be.

Organisers were always well aware that Mbappe would not be available for French Olympic men's football coach Thierry Henry to select for the squad, even though he was eligible and had expressed on more than one occasion a desire to represent France this summer at both the Euros and Olympics.

Kylian Mbappe will not play football for France at the 2024 Paris Olympics, focussing instead on Euro 2024 in GermanyKylian Mbappe will not play football for France at the 2024 Paris Olympics, focussing instead on Euro 2024 in Germany
Kylian Mbappe will not play football for France at the 2024 Paris Olympics, focussing instead on Euro 2024 in Germany

Mbappe was eligible as even though the men's Olympic football tournament is an under-23s competition, three over-age players are allowed in the squad. Henry, Paris organisers and probably most French people wanted Mbappe to play.

While still a PSG player this season, Mbappe remained coy about his participation, while Paris 2024 told Mno Sports they were "hopeful" Mbappe could take part, but the saga that was his departure from PSG and now signing for Real Madrid has ruled out his appearance at the Olympics especially given his expected workload for the French team at Euro 2024.

Don't be surprised though if Mbappe pops up at events around Paris 2024, organisers need and know the value of a French sporting hero and a global sporting figure.

Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals

Russia have been banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from competing as a nation at Paris 2024. Their invasion of Ukraine, along with support from Belarus, has meant those two counties are pariahs as far as the majority viewpoint of the IOC and National Olympic Committee's goes.

What does that actually mean though for Paris 2024? No Russian or Belarus athlete can compete at Paris wearing their national attire, logo or flag. No flag can be flown, no national anthem sung. Neither Russia nor Belarus can effectively be acknowledged… but to the annoyance of several nations and athletes, Russians and Belarusians can compete in Paris as neutrals.

No Russian or Belarusian athlete can compete at Paris 2024, but some athletes will compete as neutralsNo Russian or Belarusian athlete can compete at Paris 2024, but some athletes will compete as neutrals
No Russian or Belarusian athlete can compete at Paris 2024, but some athletes will compete as neutrals

What that means is that athletes who hold a Russian or Belarusian passport, who have no connection to the military in their respective country, have not expressed any support for the war in Ukraine, and are effectively separated from the conflict, can compete as neutrals.

Selection for Paris comes down to each individual sporting federation, not the Russian or Belarus Olympic Committee. Practically, this means very few Russian or Belarusian athletes will compete at Paris. If no constraints were on either side, it's been estimated that a combined number of somewhere between 400-550 athletes from those countries may have made it.

Now the IOC has issued the term 'Individual Neutral Athlete ' (AIN) - it's expected somewhere between 50 and 60 athletes from Russia and Belarus will come under a specially designed flag with their own anthem. They are not allowed to use the flags of Russia, Belarus or the Olympic flag. The delegation is also banned from attending the Opening and Closing Ceremony, nor be listed on the Medal Table.

Team GB strength 50 days out

A medal range or expectation will be set by UK Sport closer to the Games, but Team GB privately expect to perform well at Paris 2024. Three years ago at the delayed Tokyo Olympics, Team GB finished fourth in the Medal Table, winning a total of 64 (22 Gold, 20 Silver, 22 Bronze).

A supercomputer is predicting success for Team GB at this summer's Olympic Games in Paris - but can they deliver?

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A supercomputer is predicting success for Team GB at this summer's Olympic Games in Paris - but can they deliver?
A supercomputer is predicting success for Team GB at this summer's Olympic Games in Paris - but can they deliver?

Internationally across the various Olympic sports, Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes who come together to form Team GB for the Olympic Games, have performed well during this shortened three-year Olympic cycle.

Team GB's strength is often their ability to compete for medals across a large number of Olympic sports - they don't focus just on a few core sports. Traditionally though Team GB are strong in athletics, cycling, sailing, rowing and swimming, they medal across the spectrum of sports from equestrian to taekwondo, boxing to skateboarding!

Keely Hodgkinson says she wants to turn her silver medal from Tokyo into gold in Paris and will be ‘fearless’ in her approach as she looks to make it happen

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Keely Hodgkinson says she wants to turn her silver medal from Tokyo into gold in Paris and will be ‘fearless’ in her approach as she looks to make it happen
Keely Hodgkinson says she wants to turn her silver medal from Tokyo into gold in Paris and will be ‘fearless’ in her approach as she looks to make it happen
Skateboarder Mno Brown shared how it feels to be Britain's first world champion and her aspirations for the Paris Olympics

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Skateboarder Mno Brown shared how it feels to be Britain's first world champion and her aspirations for the Paris Olympics
Skateboarder Mno Brown shared how it feels to be Britain's first world champion and her aspirations for the Paris Olympics
British artistic swimmers Izzy Thorpe and Kate Shortman say they are grinding and pushing through with their preparation in a bid to win Olympic gold this summer in Paris

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British artistic swimmers Izzy Thorpe and Kate Shortman say they are grinding and pushing through with their preparation in a bid to win Olympic gold this summer in Paris
British artistic swimmers Izzy Thorpe and Kate Shortman say they are grinding and pushing through with their preparation in a bid to win Olympic gold this summer in Paris

A supercomputer that has predicted a 'virtual medal table' earlier this year estimated that Team GB will surpass their Tokyo haul and win 65 medals. That prediction would see Team GB finish third in the Medal Table behind the USA and China, and beat hosts France who are predicted to come fifth behind Japan.

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The Olympic women's 800m Final is shaping up to be one of, if not the most competitive, dramatic, emotional races of Paris 2024.

Why? Because the runners involved that could contest gold, silver and bronze have been tussling in races with one another since the last Olympics and Team GB's Keely Hodgkinson is in the mix, along with the USA's Athing Mu and Kenya's Mary Moraa.

Don't rule out another Brit in Jemma Reekie, who came fourth in the Tokyo Final.

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Hodgkinson though has stardust to sprinkle over two laps of the track. As a 19-year at the Tokyo Games in 2021 she took silver - what a way to announce herself to the World.

Hodgkinson believes her 800m rivalry with Athing Mu and Mary Moraa is 'great' for the sport and wants to show that she can come out on top against them at the Olympics

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Hodgkinson believes her 800m rivalry with Athing Mu and Mary Moraa is 'great' for the sport and wants to show that she can come out on top against them at the Olympics
Hodgkinson believes her 800m rivalry with Athing Mu and Mary Moraa is 'great' for the sport and wants to show that she can come out on top against them at the Olympics

She keeps lowering her personal best and currently stands at 10th fastest on the all-time list at 1 minute 55.19 seconds.

Now 22, she's fast and way more experienced. Where Tokyo was a blur where her adrenalin went stratospheric after her silver and she barely slept for days, now she views 800m as a job. One she is very good at.

Key to her success are her coaches. A husband and wife team who treat Keely as if she were one of their own. Trevor Painter and Jenny Meadows, who herself was a seriously good 800m runner taking bronze at the World Championships in 2009, push Hodgkinson to and beyond the pain barrier, but then make the hard training days fun.

Hodgkinson says she wants to turn her silver medal from Tokyo into gold in Paris and will be ‘fearless’ in her approach as she looks to make it happen

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Hodgkinson says she wants to turn her silver medal from Tokyo into gold in Paris and will be ‘fearless’ in her approach as she looks to make it happen
Hodgkinson says she wants to turn her silver medal from Tokyo into gold in Paris and will be ‘fearless’ in her approach as she looks to make it happen

Hodgkinson told Mno Sports: "I just really gelled with Jenny and Trevor when I first met them when I was like 15, so I knew them way before I joined their setup.

"And I just think, like Trevor's probably said before, his focus is 'a happy athlete is a fast athlete', so I just try and create that environment. But I think we have a really good relationship in that he knows when he's annoying me and he knows when I'm not in the mood for his dad jokes!"

Watching them training in Manchester, you see and hear the relationship. It is 'back and forth' with humour, but there's an instant switch when the serious hard work has to be done: "Looking at Mo Farah and Jess Ennis, it's like 'how do they do it every year over and over again?' And I look back now and think 'oh you have done it now for a good couple of years', but it's just keeping that going and I think it's the one thing I'd like to do, to just keep reeling in the medals."

And 'reeling in the medals' is what she has done. At European level so far it's been gold. Add to that two World Championship silver medals and the silver from the Tokyo Olympics: "So far I've medalled at every championships I've ever been to which is quite hard to do… unfortunately I've been second every time!"

Hodgkinson tells the story of how she became 95 per cent deaf in one ear during her early teens following an operation to have a tumour removed

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Hodgkinson tells the story of how she became 95 per cent deaf in one ear during her early teens following an operation to have a tumour removed
Hodgkinson tells the story of how she became 95 per cent deaf in one ear during her early teens following an operation to have a tumour removed

The next step is to get ahead of an American and a Kenyan: "I'll probably say it's in the mind, really. I think there's a big difference between racing for a medal and racing for a gold medal, because if you watch back loads of races where people have gone for gold, they've ended up 4th, 5th, 6th because they've messed it up.

"So now I'm at a point where I'm like 'right, well how do we get that gold?' I think every year I've got closer and I'm in better shape as the seasons gone, so hopefully that all comes together in a few weeks and I'll be better than I was before - so that's a great position to be going into Paris.

"But I do actually think it's all in the mind - the tiny split seconds that you make you really just need to believe and run a bit fearless, because if you don't risk it you won't get the rewards."

Coaches Painter and Meadows know they have a special athlete and have invested lots of time - so much so that the first word from their now three-year-old daughter Arabella was something that sounded very much like "Keely or eeely!"

Hodgkinson tells the story behind each of her tattoos and the importance of expressing herself in different ways away from the track

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Hodgkinson tells the story behind each of her tattoos and the importance of expressing herself in different ways away from the track
Hodgkinson tells the story behind each of her tattoos and the importance of expressing herself in different ways away from the track

As Meadows put it: "She is prepared to hurt herself. It takes bravery to start a session knowing you're going to end up like that (on the floor). It's a real killer event."

'A killer event' is not a bad way to describe the 800m - at the highest level, the athletes on the start line effectively sprint two laps of a track! Hodgkinson intends not to be fazed: "When people think about the day of an Olympic final it can be very stressful. You know 'oh god, I've worked this entire year for two minutes to get it right'

"But I think one of my pros is I look forward to it so much that I don't even think about getting it wrong. So I'll sit down and say to myself 'well, I've raced these girls a million times', and I almost don't think about it being this big Olympic final.

"It's just two laps of a track that I've done many, many times."

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Team GB star Abigail Irozuru has opened up on how she’s been “ridiculed” for her looks as she shared her experiences of the institutional barriers faced by female athletes.

The 34-year-old, who appeared at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, recently contributed to the Notes on Feminism book about how unfair body standards for women have a negative psychological effect on those wanting to excel as athletes.

In an emotional interview with Mno Sports ahead of her retirement, Irozuru said she has had to endure negative comments about her physique throughout her career.

"I've had abs since I was eight years old," she explained.

"I was doing all sorts of strength training. So, it's just naturally there and my arms are something that I get a lot of comments on, in terms of how muscular they are.

"These days it's definitely more celebrated but for me, I've had times where it's been ridiculed."

One experience on a girls' night out in Tunisia impacted her greatly.

"I basically was called a man in a dress," she said.

"Going out, girls get in for free because that's the vibe sometimes.

"I was stopped at the door and basically questioned as to whether you can get in for free or you have to pay."

She added: "I'm very wary about when my arms are exposed.

"I know that's not everyone's perceptions and 95 per cent of people will just be very loving of athlete bodies, but then my perception is I need to cover this because I look like a man."

Abigail Irozuru told Mno Sports: 'We are not simply males in a different form. We are our own biological construct'. Pic: Adam RoussakAbigail Irozuru told Mno Sports: 'We are not simply males in a different form. We are our own biological construct'. Pic: Adam Roussak
Abigail Irozuru told Mno Sports: 'We are not simply males in a different form. We are our own biological construct'. Pic: Adam Roussak

In comparison, Irozuru said male athletes are not getting the same level of scrutiny and highlighted other Team GB stars who've faced unnecessary ridicule.

"Men are probably not getting that same level of ridicule. Our bodies, as females are so judged, whether we're too manly and muscular or whether we're not fitting that athletic physique," she added.

"Eilish McColgan, who's an endurance runner, is really very slim and is continually ridiculed despite the fact that she shares that she's eating enough.

"First of all, it's so ridiculous that people feel that they need to even comment and that she has to justify her body shape. It's just crazy."

Professional athletes must balance power with weight ratio and Irozuru believes women in sports can get into a "danger zone" of thinking they are overweight.

"I think the irony is that we need to eat sufficiently to avoid injuries and to have enhanced performance.

"But when you have a negative body image and your feeling is that you need to lose weight because it's actually necessary, people can get into the danger zone because they've been forced into a position where they're perceived as overweight and [have] maybe not been given the support network."

Abigail told Mno Sports: 'I've had abs since I was eight years old'. Pic: Sam OduniyiAbigail told Mno Sports: 'I've had abs since I was eight years old'. Pic: Sam Oduniyi
Abigail told Mno Sports: 'I've had abs since I was eight years old'. Pic: Sam Oduniyi

Her Nigerian heritage also influenced her views of "ideal beauty", and she spoke about inheriting "negative mindsets" from her parents, despite it being unintentional.

"It's something we have to try and shake off and not repeat", she said.

Contraception pills had a 'negative impact'

It was only a year ago when Wimbledon relaxed its strict all-white dress code to accommodate tennis players during their menstrual cycle.

Mno Sports previously spoke to Baz Moffat, former Team GB rower, trainer and coach, who said a woman's monthly cycle alongside a regular daily cycle and hormonal contraception are factors to consider when researching female health whereas men have the same hormonal cycle.

Irozuru said there must be a "structural institutional change" and more research around menstruation.

"Ultimately, we still need to be able to perform, so we can't really necessarily use it as an excuse. What can we do?

"We're not all going to be able to sync our cycles as world-class athletes in an Olympic final. Unfortunately, it's not possible. However, are there ways for us to minimise the negative impacts that's not going to affect us emotionally, like a lot of these pills currently do.

"I have been on the pill specifically, not for any type of sexual reasons. The motivation was I need to manage my periods around my performance.

"Unfortunately, it had a completely negative impact on my emotional health."

Abigail Irozuru placed 11th in the women's long jump final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Pic: Adam Roussak Abigail Irozuru placed 11th in the women's long jump final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Pic: Adam Roussak
Abigail Irozuru placed 11th in the women's long jump final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Pic: Adam Roussak

She added: "We are not simply males in a different form. We are our own biological construct.

"I think that because female elite sport is relatively new - the last 100 years - and male elite sport has been ongoing for the longest time, all the research is around men, and nothing is around women.

"We need to just change that."

In March 2023, research showed that all types of hormonal contraceptives could increase the risk of women getting breast cancer and another study found that certain contraceptive injections were linked to an increased brain tumour risk.

Besides its effect on emotions, many hormonal contraceptives have health risks.

Through tracking her performance and moods while menstruating, "there was a specific time of the month that my injuries would occur, and it was significantly linked to that time of my [menstruation] cycle", said Irozuru.

By taking notes, it allowed her to adapt training with coaches in advance and avoid having to use contraceptive pills to regulate her cycle.

End of the tracks

Now, the long jumper is planning for retirement, but it's not the first time she's called it quits.

In 2016, Irozuru retired for a short period after rupturing her achilles and missed out on the 2012 Games.

At 34, the accomplished athlete has certainly made a name for herself and although she'll be continuing to better her long jump distances (over 6.5m+), she's looking forward to "creating a life beyond competitive sport."

"I think it's a whole load of different factors that lead into retirement," she said.

"You start to realise that what you would previously have called investments, you now see is more of a sacrifice".

"I just think it's the right time. I have fulfilled the Olympic dream."

Australia and Chelsea striker Sam Kerr has been ruled out of the Paris 2024 Olympics as she continues to recover from injury. 

The 30-year-old has been sidelined since January when suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during a warm weather training camp in Morocco with Chelsea.

Left out of Australia's squad announced on Tuesday for two pre-Olympics friendlies against China, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said Kerr would not return in time for the Olympics in July.

Sam Kerr suffered an ACL injury during a warm weather training camp in Morocco with Chelsea.Sam Kerr suffered an ACL injury during a warm weather training camp in Morocco with Chelsea.
Sam Kerr suffered an ACL injury during a warm weather training camp in Morocco with Chelsea.
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Young midfielder Amy Sayer also tore her ACL last month and has been ruled out of the Olympics, but Katrina Gorry and Aivi Luik could return in time to feature in Paris, with Gustavsson adding that they will "most likely be physically available to be part of an Olympic roster."

Kerr is Australia's all-time record goal scorer and was expected to play a key part in Paris for Australia, who were beaten by the United States in the bronze-medal match at Tokyo 2020 and also suffered semi-final heartache against England at the Women's World Cup on home soil last year.

Sam Kerr (R) and Australia were beaten by England in the semi-final stage of the 2023 Women's World CupSam Kerr (R) and Australia were beaten by England in the semi-final stage of the 2023 Women's World Cup
Sam Kerr (R) and Australia were beaten by England in the semi-final stage of the 2023 Women's World Cup

Australia face Germany in Marseille for their opening match of the Olympics on July 25. They also face Zambia (July 28) and the United States (July 31) in their group.

Since signing for Chelsea in 2019, Ker has played a pivotal role in the team's five successive WSL titles, three FA Cup triumphs and two League Cup victories.

She has scored 99 goals for the Blues and a further 64 for Australia over that period, and has been nominated for the Ballon d'Or Feminin every year since its inception in 2018.

Emma Hayes says Sam Kerr has the club's full support ahead of her trial next year for alleged racial harassment of a police officer. The Chelsea striker pleaded not guilty.

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Emma Hayes says Sam Kerr has the club's full support ahead of her trial next year for alleged racial harassment of a police officer. The Chelsea striker pleaded not guilty.
Emma Hayes says Sam Kerr has the club's full support ahead of her trial next year for alleged racial harassment of a police officer. The Chelsea striker pleaded not guilty.

It has been a difficult few months for Kerr, however, as shortly after her ACL injury, she was charged with using insulting, threatening or abusive words that caused alarm or distress to a police officer during an incident in Twickenham on January 30.

Kerr has pleaded not guilty and is set to stand trial next February.

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When Phil Sesemann outsprinted Sir Mo Farah at the London Marathon in 2023, the junior doctor who combined his love for running with his NHS shifts knew he had a decision to make.

"I liked being a doctor but I wouldn't say it was ever truly my passion, it was something that I was guided towards but it's a really difficult job." the Leeds-based runner told Mno Sports, having made the decision to solely focus on running.

"Fortunately, it got to the point where the running was going well enough that I felt it was worth going all in and giving it a shot."

Now Sesemann is just a few short months away from competing at the Olympics in Paris. The gamble, clearly, paid off.

The former junior NHS doctor, 31, started his running career on the track competing for Blackheath and Bromley Athletic Club from 2010 to 2020 before making the transition to marathon distance, finding more passion and excitement for the road.

"My coach always saw some potential in it and I found that I was enjoying running longer distances and training weeks in terms of volume.

"That was what motivated and excited me rather than just short distances and speed work on the track."

Kipchoge and Haile are the names of two of the greatest long-distance runners of all time, but for Sesemann they are his canine training partners who became a key part of his marathon preparation when at home in Leeds.

Phil Sesemann reveals the inspiration behind naming his dogs after long-distance running greats ‘Haile’ Gebrselassie and Eluid ‘Kipchoge’

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Phil Sesemann reveals the inspiration behind naming his dogs after long-distance running greats ‘Haile’ Gebrselassie and Eluid ‘Kipchoge’
Phil Sesemann reveals the inspiration behind naming his dogs after long-distance running greats ‘Haile’ Gebrselassie and Eluid ‘Kipchoge’

"I was always going to have running dogs after never having dogs when I was growing up, and Kipchoge shortens to 'Kip' quite nicely which got the name over the line with my girlfriend," he said.

"I am quite fortunate to have the two dogs when going out training on my own to take with me and keep me entertained, which helps me balance the seriousness of training with a laid back attitude."

The balance of training with animals and humans allowed Sesemann to see running as his passion instead of a job, and helped him prepare for his marathon debut which he made in London in 2021.

Phil Sesemann crosses the finish line during the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2021Phil Sesemann crosses the finish line during the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2021
Phil Sesemann crosses the finish line during the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2021

This was the first step on his journey to the Paris Olympics, and he marked his 29th birthday in style by finishing seventh as the first Brit over the finish line.

Two years later on the same course, he would catapult himself into the public eye outkicking Sir Mo Farah on his final marathon appearance in an epic sprint finish to the line. "It definitely was a race I went into with a lot of nerves because I knew training had gone well, but in recent races I had not shown great form," he said.

Team GB marathon runner Phil Sesemann says outkicking Sir Mo Farah in a sprint finish at the London Marathon in 2023 was quite a moment for him and a big step up in performance

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Team GB marathon runner Phil Sesemann says outkicking Sir Mo Farah in a sprint finish at the London Marathon in 2023 was quite a moment for him and a big step up in performance
Team GB marathon runner Phil Sesemann says outkicking Sir Mo Farah in a sprint finish at the London Marathon in 2023 was quite a moment for him and a big step up in performance

"I chased him down for the final few miles and then overhauling him in the final straight was obviously a big highlight for me."

The realisation that he could compete with the best after defeating an Olympic great in that way convinced Sesemann to ultimately give up his medical licence a few months later so he could put his full attention into racing and training.

"It was definitely stressful mentally making that decision," he said. "But it has been a massive relief and I haven't looked back and questioned whether it was the right thing to do."

Phil Sesemann competing against Sir Mo Farah at the 2023 edition of the Big Half in LondonPhil Sesemann competing against Sir Mo Farah at the 2023 edition of the Big Half in London
Phil Sesemann competing against Sir Mo Farah at the 2023 edition of the Big Half in London

Now the possibility of qualifying for his first Olympics was at the forefront of his mind and the Valencia Marathon in December provided him with the first opportunity to do so.

Sesemann ran a personal best of 2:08:48 along the fast streets of Spain becoming the eighth quickest Brit of all time, but still finished just 38 seconds outside of the Olympic qualifying time required.

Focused on his next opportunity, a month of altitude training in Kenya was the next step as he looked to find that extra bit of performance but feelings of self doubt were starting to kick in.

Phil Sesemann training at altitude in Kenya as he prepares for the Seville MarathonPhil Sesemann training at altitude in Kenya as he prepares for the Seville Marathon
Phil Sesemann training at altitude in Kenya as he prepares for the Seville Marathon

"My coach and training partners constantly reminded me how close I have been and that the altitude training would take me over the line and get me to Paris," Sesemann reflects.

The Seville Marathon on February 18, a date that will live long in the memory of Sesemann as he faced his last chance to qualify for the Olympics.

Three months after the heartbreak of Valencia and 10 months of pushing his body to the absolute limit later, he crossed the line in 2:08:04 - finishing six seconds inside the qualifying time. His lifelong dream of becoming an Olympian had finally been achieved.

"It's really difficult to actually describe it and I know that sounds cliché but I almost immediately fell onto the floor and felt quite emotional," he said.

"I worked really hard and took some risks that paid off so to qualify and to represent Great Britain knowing how proud my family and friends are is huge for me."

Phil Sesemann reminisces on the 'overwhelming' feeling of crossing the finish line at the Seville Marathon and realising he had qualified for his first Olympics in Paris

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Phil Sesemann reminisces on the 'overwhelming' feeling of crossing the finish line at the Seville Marathon and realising he had qualified for his first Olympics in Paris
Phil Sesemann reminisces on the 'overwhelming' feeling of crossing the finish line at the Seville Marathon and realising he had qualified for his first Olympics in Paris

Paris is now on the horizon as he prepares for his Olympic debut and biggest race yet with the knowledge that all the hard work and mental challenges he faced along the way were worth it.

"I'm looking forward to just being on that start line and soaking that all in knowing that I prepared as best as I possibly can and I actually belong here.

"There is definitely some kind of fear thinking of the big hills and heat in Paris but also looking at that as an opportunity to be better prepared and finish quite a lot higher up than my ranking suggests that I will do."

Skateboarder Mno Brown will miss this week's Olympic Qualifier Series event to recover from injury.

The 15-year-old sustained an MCL tear in her knee, according to NBC, and will subsequently miss the series, which starts in Shanghai on Thursday.

Brown claimed park skateboard bronze at just 13 years old in the sport's debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

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"Every injury I've had, I've come back stronger. So this is just my time to really think about what I want to do next. It really puts a fire in my heart, and yeah, it happens, it is part of life," Brown told NBC.

She is currently ranked number three in the Olympic World Skate rankings behind Japanese duo Cocona Hiraki and Hinano Kusaki, the former of whom earned silver in the park skateboard event in Tokyo.

Brown had hoped to represent Team GB at this year's Paris Olympics in both surfing and skateboarding, but failed to qualify at the ISA World Surfing Games in March.

It is expected that she will return in time for the second Olympic Qualifier Series event, which takes place in Budapest next month, and she hopes to medal again in Paris.

Brown added: "Since the [last] Olympics, I've won every event and I don't want to lose that streak. So I'm going to keep going to try to get gold in every event, especially the Olympics."

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