Britain looks for tall athletes for 2016 Olympics

Britain has started looking beyond the London 2012 Olympics in an effort to identify talent for the 2016 Games.

UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport launched an initiative on Tuesday called Talent 2016, aimed at attracting tall but inexperienced athletes between the ages of 15 and 22.

Rowing and basketball are among the sports targeted for success in Rio de Janeiro, so male athletes must be at least 190 centimeters tall (6-foot-3) and female athletes at least 180 centimeters (5-foot-11).

A similar initiative 2 1/2 years ago helped identify athletes for the 2012 Games.

Show jumper Victoria Thornley was picked out in 2007 as a potential rower. In July this year, she was on the winning eight crew at the Under-23 World Championships in the Czech Republic.

“I hadn’t sat in a boat two years ago but I took a chance and, with a lot of hard work, it’s paying off,” Thornley said. “You can do a lot in a short space of time if you put your mind to it.”

Olympic hopefuls meeting the age and height requirements need only to have competed at regional competitions in any sport to be eligible for the online signup.

Successful applicants will be invited to one of five assessment events in January.

At the age of 16, I just spent my time watching TV and riding my bike to my friends’ houses,” said rower Andy Hodge, who won a gold medal at last year’s Beijing Games in the men’s four. “I got into rowing by chance and simply as a way of getting fit.

“Talent 2016 removes the element of luck involved and provides young athletes with a more structured opportunity to realize their sporting potential.”