May 23 2013 Latest news:
Joshua Fowler, Reporter
Friday, August 17, 2012
In the food hall of the Olympic village, gold medal-winning veterans from across the globe break broke with star-struck newcomers looking to make a name for themselves.
West Wickham water polo player Sean King, 23, can be forgiven for checking he was awake as he watched the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and swimmer Michael Phelps walk by, as well as meeting former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Though the former Beckenham water polo club protégé’s Games may not have ended in a medal, his time spent among the world’s best has been reward enough for his hard work and preparation.
He said: “I can’t put into words how wonderful it’s been to play at the Olympic Games and just experience it all.
“I spent the first two days people-watching and I was completely star-struck to begin with. Everywhere you looked there were gold medallists and huge names like Usain Bolt.”
After the initial excitement, hard work became all too real for Sean, who says that the athletes’ village was the perfect environment in which to focus – despite reports to the contrary.
“The village was very different to what people think, so it was very quiet. It was certainly not like some sort of Ibiza holiday,” said Sean. “It was full of athletes either competing or waiting to compete, so everyone was very aware of making sure it was an environment where people could relax, rest and focus.”
Part of the first men’s team to compete in water polo since 1956, Sean and Team GB sank to the bottom of Group B, which was labelled “the group of death” before the start of the Games.
Despite being underdogs, he maintains that the team’s performances at times were above expectation and that he gave the team everything.
He said: “We knew what to expect coming into the Games – that these guys were big, strong and fast. But some of our quarters were great. I’m happy with how much I played and how I did. I’m sitting here knowing I couldn’t have given much more.”
Funding has been a battle for the men’s team. Players have had to disperse across Europe to find a higher quality of competition.
Sean plays for German side SV Weiden, having risen rapidly to the upper echelons of the sport, after developing his swimming skills at Bromley Swimming Club.
He now hopes his efforts will mean more youngsters take to the water to try out the sport and provide a boost in players and money.
He said: “I’m quite positive that these past two weeks will inspire people and that getting more people into their local clubs will happen.
“I actually didn’t realise there were so many other Olympic athletes based in Bromley.”
His confidence as a player is at an all time high, but it might take him a little while longer to get used to being known as an Olympian. He added: “I don’t think that will sink for a good while yet.”