BBC World Service will broadcast a series of documentaries in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In Beijing Calling starting Friday 18 July presenter, Russell Fuller, will look at the lives of six Olympic hopefuls from around the world. The three-part series will feature long-jumper Ignisious Gaisah from Ghana, sprinter Virgil Hodge from St Kitts and Nevis, Taekwondo athlete Sarah Stevenson from the UK, paralympic athlete Kenny Van Weeghel from the Netherlands and swimmers Daniel Bego from Malaysia and George Bovell III from Trinidad and Tobago.
Throughout the year Russell Fuller enjoyed unprecedented access to the six success-seekers and experienced their difficult journeys on the long road to Beijing. He shares the highs and the heartaches of a group of the world’s most driven athletes. BBC audiences can follow the programme on air or listen again online at bbcworldservice.com.
Ignisious Gaisah lives and trains in Rotterdam but has a family and young son in Ghana. He came to the Netherlands in 2001 winning numerous local then international meetings and is now considered one of the best long jumpers in the world. In Helsinki in 2005 he jumped 8.34 metres to earn a personal best and a silver medal at the World Championships and is the reigning Commonwealth champion. Ignisious currently has a seriously damaged left knee, but despite being advised not to compete by his doctor and coach he is determined to take part in the Games.
Virgil Hodge from St Kitts and Nevis will be competing in the 100 and 200 metres at the Beijing Olympics and is a national hero in St Kitts and Nevis – everyone knows her. She is having an outstanding year and has broken her own 100 metres national record.
The UK’S Sarah Stevenson will be taking part in her third Olympic Games. She was just 17-years old in Sydney when she stepped from her Doncaster classroom to finish fourth in taekwondo as the sport made its full Olympic debut. She missed the bronze by a single point. She is now one of the favourites for gold in August and Beijing Calling follows Sarah’s progress at the Dutch Open and her on going treatment for a persistent foot injury.
Malaysian swimmer Daniel Bego first caught the attention of the public as a 14-year-old when he delivered three of the eight medals Malaysia won in the 2003 SEA Games in Vietnam. Although Daniel is supposed to observe a strict diet, he has a weakness for burgers and like others his age is also into movies and parties.
Swimmer George Bovell III from Trinidad and Tobago won a bronze medal in Athens in 2004 – a first for the English speaking Caribbean, the Caribbean’s first medal ever in the sport of swimming, and the only medal for Trinidad and Tobago in Athens 2004. His father, George Bovell II, was a collegiate swimmer and mother, Barbara, was an Olympic runner for Barbados and Canada. To take his mind off training, George regularly goes “spear fishing” and survived a shark attack in Florida in April.
Paralympic athlete Kenny van Weeghel is a paralympic athlete from the Netherlands competing in the 100, 200 and 400 metres T54 class wheelchair racing. At the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens, he won three medals: bronze in the 100 metres, silver in the 200 metres and gold in the 400 metres. He was elected Dutch handicapped sportsman of the year. Kenny loves the adrenaline rush of racing on the track and on the road….gaining speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour!
Other documentaries to broadcast on BBC World Service in the run-up to Beijing 2008 include Secrets in the Blood starting Thursday 28 July. Presenter Matt McGrath investigates the world of doping. He explores who does it and the challenges of trying to stop it.
In Heart and Soul on Friday 1 August, presenter Dale Gavlak talks to the first Arab woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles summer Games, Moroccan, Nawal El Moutawakel. The number of Arab female athletes is increasing every year and Muslim sportswomen are at the forefront of challenging cultural barriers that still deny some women the chance to compete in the Olympics. Dale also talks to younger women about being part of the Olympics and how their faith has helped them defy cultural obstacles.