Matthew Pinsent catches up with athletes from across the globe. Matthew finds out if Iraqi rower Haider Rashid will make it to London 2012.
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Welcome to World Olympic Dreams, this time from South Korea. There
the last two years, we have been following athletes from all around
the world as they pursued their goal of competing for their country
at the Olympics in 2012. We have come to Seoul, because the next few
days, for one of our athletes, are going to be his moment of truth.
That athlete is Haider Rashid, a rower from Iraq. We are at the
Asian Olympic qualification regatta to see if he can book his place at
London 2012. Elsewhere, there is American gymnast Shawn Johnson, on
her unsteady road to the London Games, as seen through the eyes of
her mother. Kevin and Jonathan Borlee are identical twins from
Belgium, and they meet to the sprinting legend Michael Johnson.
Britain's world champion triathlete Alistair Brownlee on why Yorkshire
is where the parties. And finally, the land of runners. How does one
valley in Kenya produce so many It is not really enough just to
show up in South Korea to witness what we hope will be Haider
Rashid's qualification for the London Olympics, where there is a
lovely new rowing facility and the boats are all shiny. To really
understand him and the journey he has been on, you have got to go
back to where it all began. Haider Rashid rose from Baghdad. He trains
on the river to Greece with the rest of Iraq's growing team. -- the
River Tigris. In 2008, he and his rowing partner at the time, Hamza
Hussein, were two of the four athletes Beijing -- Iraq sent to
the Beijing Olympics. They were given a last-minute wild card to
compete and finished 13th out of 13. As I discovered when I visited them,
conditions for rowing were pretty good, but it was not always like
that. During the Second Gulf War in 2003, the River Tigris was part of
the frontline, literally. Even after Saddam Hussein was toppled,
the reverse served a darker purpose. We were still coming here and
training, and we see a lot of bodies in the river. There were
bodies. We could not move them, and we were still training. Just a few
metres from us. This body stayed there three weeks, maybe.
London Olympics offers Haider Rashid a chance to improve on his
last place finish in 2008. He has moved into a boat of his own, and
we will find out later in the programme if he can qualify here in
Korea. Before that, let's hear about a town that has produced a
disproportionate number of Olympic champions. Kenya is world renowned
for its long distance runners, and the Rift Valley in particular is
recognised as the cauldron from which the majority of these
champions are produced. But what makes this place so special? James
Coomarasamy has been to the town of Iten, the running capital of the
High above Kenya's Rift Valley, they gather for their morning
This is Iten, a town where running is a way of life from schooldays
onwards and where the early morning soundtrack is the pounding of feet.
A quarter of the population here are committed athletes. That
dedication has brought medals and riches for some and inspired others
to follow in their footsteps as a way to escape poverty. What do you
hoped to do with your running? hope to improve my life, my living
standard, help my family and help others. And Iten's aspiring
athletes are helped by the presence of so many medalists in their midst,
taking advantage of the thin air, the simple diet and the general
hunger for success. Here at Iten's basic running track, you get a
sense of what makes this place a special. Elite Kenyan athletes,
international athletes, world champions and schoolkids are all
here, united by their passion for the sport. Driving out of Iten, we
are off to meet a young girl who hopes to leave her poor rural
surroundings and joined the ranks of Kenya's champions. When 12-year-
old Nancy Jeepcho returns home after her bare foot journey from
school, she changes straight into her running gear. Then it is time
to warm up for her second training session of the day. She would run
to the local well at 5am to fetch water for her grandmother. Her
talent has already brought her victory in the National Primary
School's championship. Expectant villagers hope that in the future,
it could also bring an end to their hardship. This village is not well
developed. We don't even have electricity. We don't have a good
means of transportation. So we are looking forward to her coming back
and helping the community. She will be a role model and then she will
come and eradicate the poverty in this village. But for the moment,
that weight of responsibility does not seem to be putting Nancy off
her stride. She has a quiet confidence in her future success.
For her, running is not just a way of life, but a way of changing
Back in Korea, Haider Rashid, a rower from Iraq, is preparing to
qualify for the London Olympic Games. Earlier, we heard about his
training base in Baghdad. They don't have an Olympic-sized rowing
lake in the city. They have to train on the River Tigris. For most
athletes qualifying for the Olympic Games can be a six-month experience.
For Haider Rashid, it all boils down to this one event in Korea. If
he has a good week, he is going to be games. If it is bad, his dream
ends here. To date, Haider Rashid has failed to qualify for the
Olympics. This is his last chance, and he is going up against Asia's
best rowers. So far, it is looking good. This is the opening round. He
needs to finish in the top two to get to the semi-final. His first or
second at the moment. And Haider Rashid keeps the momentum going,
crossing the line first, seven seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
It was a good race. I finished first place. The day after tomorrow,
we have the semi-final. We will see how Haider Rashid get some later.
Another of our athletes aiming for Olympic qualification is American
gymnast Shawn Johnson. If she does make it, it will crown an amazing
comeback from a horrific injury. Her career has literally been in
the balance since she blew out her knee while skiing in 2010. Sadly
for her, the injury never fully went away, so she now has decided
to retire. But how has this incredible journey you affected
those closest to her? World Olympic Dreams went to Des Moines, Iowa, to
meet her mother, Terri, who has been with her every step of the way.
Billie-Jean King started to follow me on Twitter. To me, she has just
shone. I still have a hard time believing that she has done the
things she has done, because she isn't any different, except for the
things we have had introduced to our life that we were not used to.
Nothing has changed, except that a lot of people know who she is an
think she is cool, which made me Going back home has meant the
comfort of my parents. It is the one constant I have had through
everything. I don't think anybody else gets it quite like they do.
They have seen the good days and the bad days and in good years and
the bad years. They have gone through everything with me. It is
like they have been training for it themselves.
I think I have done this drive thousands of times since I started.
Twice a day, every day for the past, oh, my gosh, 17 years. Oh, my gosh.
It is wonderful watching people love something that means a lot to
me, which is her. Watching her on the be more doing gymnastics, there
is danger to it. I never got comfortable with it. I never found
a comfort zone watching her do it. I just always say it's a little
prayer that I hope she is safe. When I saw Shawn Johnson get her
gold medal, I was just so relieved that it was all over. Isn't that
awful? Through every second, my mom has been there. And knowing she has
been there has given me something to fall back on. At the end of the
day, I am not a gymnast to her, I am just her daughter. And having
that constant in my life, the one who supports me, no matter what,
and wants to see me be happy as a person and not as this Olympic
gymnast, it means the world to me. Since I was little, they have
taught me that it is not about the material things, the titles and or
the Olympics or gymnastics, it is about the person you are at the
heart you have. What I am most proud of is who she is as a person
versus what she has done and accomplished. She is still a nice
person. She has a good heart. I am real proud of that.
Just a few hundred miles away, a pair of identical twins from
Belgium have been getting stuck into their summer training camp.
Kevin and Jonathan Borlee are going for 400 metre gold, and they have
enlisted the help of a track and field legend, Michael Johnson.
is one of the greatest runners of all time. Kieron fox caught up with
This is track-and-field, American style. In the US college system,
athletics is serious business. In the Texan heat, the competition and
set up would be the envy of some nations. This is where Belgium's
twins have come to prepare for the London Olympics. But here, not even
Kevin, the European 400 metre champion, is guaranteed a wind.
Second place will have to do for now. Brother Jonathan fared better,
with a winning personal best in the Brothers are in Texas, along with
the rest of Belgium's 400 metres squad, to train in the shadow of
this man. 400 metres's greatest ever exponent. Michael Johnson to
go Olympic sprinter and to new levels -- Olympic sprinting. If the
brothers need inspiration, it is here in abundance. We are going to
have a lot of pressure coming to the Olympics, so we have to be able
to handle it and I am sure he can teach us some great... Tips. Yeah.
At the centre, athletes of many sports work on conditioning and
mental preparation. For three weeks, the twins will hone their
athleticism. They are obviously unique because you have some twins
that are talented, coming from a country that is not known for
producing great 400 metre runners. It will be interesting to see how
they perform in the summer. They are in the top five in the world
but if they are to turn rankings into medals, they hope that common
to the Michael Johnson performance centre will make a difference.
After four years of preparation and hard work, what they do here could
be crucial in London. Training is a family affair for the brothers. The
youngest brother Dylan and sister Olivia I'll already Olympic relay
silver medallists. At the heart of the operation is their father and
coach, a former Olympic athlete himself. I never think about
beating Jonathan. Like I say, in the final, I don't have seven
opponents. I have six. If he is first and I am second, I am go it.
I don't even think about giving him the race. What? I just try to think
about my race and focus on that and give my best. The Olympics are
around the corner. Most of the training is done. For the twins, it
is almost race time. My sports career came to an end
eight years ago so I find myself coming to events like this and
watching from the relatives safely -- safety and peace of the towpath,
but I can still remember the feeling of being favourite, and
that is certainly the case for one of our British athletes. He is from
the sport of triathlon and his name is Alistair Brownlee.
Over the past two years, we have followed him across Europe, to
training camps in Lanzarote and the Swiss Alps. We have seen him emerge
as one of Britain's top athletes, winning his second world
championship. He is becoming increasingly in demand by the media
and all the while has kept his feet on the ground and stayed true to
Ed Thomas met up with him at his home in the North of England to
find out why Yorkshire is where the parties. -- the heart is. Made in
Yorkshire. The brothers who dominate triathlon. Alastair and
Jonathan Brownlee. From a very young age I realise I had been
inspired and motivated by my surroundings and that is what gives
me the motivation. I want to be in the nice countryside and cycled
through a particular place to see a view and that has been the most
important thing to me. On top of that is that you still know your
family and friends. You are just training and it is not a job.
coach Malcolm Brown agrees. Better road surface than in Spain, a
better climate and San Diego, deeper culture than in the Gold
But no one of those advantages outweighs the accumulation of the
advantages in Yorkshire. British triathlon's HQ is in Loughborough
but the brothers have decided to stay close to their roots.
Loughborough might offer something but at the end of the day, I
trained 30 hours at every week and it is important I can do that in a
place where I enjoyed doing it. former teacher also sees Yorkshire
as the training ground for Alistair Brownlee's 6 as. They both have
tremendous pride in Yorkshire. Allister particularly, in the
Yorkshire cross country championships. He won the under 13,
under 14, under 14, under 15, under 16, Under 17, under 18, under 19.
When I was 11, I walked into the changing room and somebody were
brought out a vest that said Yorkshire on it and they said, if
you qualify and come in the top eight, you get given a vest for
free. I went away and trained for a few weeks and came 7th in the
Yorkshire cross country championships. That was the first
time I ever decided to go away and trained for something myself.
the past, Alastair has crossed the line draped in the Yorkshire flag.
Will he do it again at the Olympics? I would if I could. I
don't want to be thinking too far ahead. I don't think you are
allowed to because the Yorkshire flag is not recognised by the
authority and the Olympic and Back to our final part of the
programme and the moment of truth for the Iraqi roller. It is seven
minutes to go before the race and to be honest, the closest I can
compare this to is actually a bracing myself. You get butterflies
and you start thinking about what will happen in the race. I am
really really wanting him to do well now. 2000 metres now lie
between Haider Rashid, and his Normally at a big rowing race like
an Olympic Games, you would have live TV pictures coming back from a
card or a boat. Here we have just got a fixed camera and then one may
be 1,000 metres, so we have to wait three minutes for any more
information. In the meantime on stage we have got Korea's Got
We have just had eight picture at 1,000 metres. I reckon he is in
second place. Having won his heat, he now needs to finish in the top
three of this race to qualify. Go for it. Come on. No! Come on! No!
Come on! Oh my God... This is I finished fourth place. It was
7.11, and I was 7.12. Disappointed. Do you want to carry on with the
sport? Yeah. Sure. I will stay with the sport. It is not the end of the
world if I don't go to the Olympic Games. We have the Arab Games, we
have championships, we get medals, it is OK. It is important for us. I
have to train more. I do hope that Haider Rashid has enjoyed the
attempt to get the Olympic Games and it should have been possible
for us to write out a list of 26 people and all of them would make
it to the Games and win medals. I have always been keen on the idea
that we should be interested in the people who try their hardest and
just fall short and of course, that is what we have seen today. I hope
that wherever you are in the world, whichever flag you are waving,
whichever athlete you are supporting, you are going to love
I have got some good news to show you at the end of this forecast,
but before that happens, some bad news. We don't want any more rain
Various parts of the UK are expected to see significant amount
of rain as we go through the night. Many places will get a soaking
overnight, widely 20 mm and double The rain will start to clear a way
A dam start across parts of the South East. -- damp start. The rain
will not stay around, sunshine for all of us, but showers in some
places. Southern counties can look forward to a fine afternoon, this
is 2pm. The threat of cloud to the far south-west but it looks like it
will stay dry. The risk of showers in Wales but isolated. Thankfully
More showers through tomorrow across parts of Scotland,
particularly on the eastern side and these could align themselves
into heavy downpours, into north- The cricket starts in the afternoon,
Monday is looking fine. The start of the new working week. Any
showers will be isolated. It will feel more comfortable. A sign of
things to come. Good news of course for Wimbledon. The first two days
should be largely drive. The BBC has it covers. You can see this
bubble of warmth developing through next week. It will turn
Matthew Pinsent catches up with athletes from across the globe as they prepare for London 2012. Matthew Pinsent travels to an Asian Olympic qualifying tournament to find out if Iraqi rower Haider Rashid will make it to London 2012, and finds out what it's like to be the mother of an Olympic star. Plus, reports from Kenya and Yorkshire.