Kingston swimmer Issei Kuzuki admits even he was taken by surprise as he rebounded from last year’s heartache to clinch gold in the pool at the Balfour Beatty London Youth Games, writes Jonny Green.
Kuzuki secured junior 50m backstroke gold in a blistering time of 31.63 seconds – one year on from finishing way down the pack in 15th at Europe’s largest annual youth sports event.
And the 13-year-old has vowed to redouble his efforts after his outing at Crystal Palace’s National Sports Centre and make sure the success inspires him.
“It felt amazing to win the gold medal,” said Kuzuki, who attends Tiffin School.
“It was really fun and when I saw the board I was really happy. I’m a bit speechless.
“When I woke up in the morning I wasn’t really sure how I would do as last year I hadn’t done very well even though I still enjoyed it. Maybe I learnt something.
“I’d like to become a professional swimmer, but I know it will be quite hard. Maybe this success can act as a springboard for my dreams.
“Michael Phelps is my idol in swimming and I admire his butterfly and individual medley.
“I trained hard for the Games and I’m glad all of the hard work paid off.”
Kingston finished 17th in the overall standings – won by Wandsworth – a big improvement on last year’s 23rd, excelling in a variety of different sports across the entire Games.
The boys’ squash team hauled in gold and the girls took bronze while there were also third-place finishes in girls tag rugby, badminton and boys and girls volleyball.
Charlotte Bradley was a part of the team who took Kingston’s girls so far in the volleyball and the 15-year-old insists they gave it their all after a semi-final loss to Haringey.
“I think we played really well and when we needed to we came together as a team,” said Bradley.
“We pushed really hard but in the end, unfortunately, we couldn’t succeed.
“We were excited for the weekend and really pumped up, ready to go. We wanted to do well as it’s such a big competition and it has so much prestige and I suppose we can’t complain leaving with a medal.”
* The London boroughs and Balfour Beatty invest in the London Youth Games to build stronger communities through sport.