Olympic Hopefuls: Ryan is taking giant strides…
Comet sports editor MARCUS CRAWLEY continues his look at some of the hopefuls who are aiming for glory at London 2012 A CLIFTON schoolboy has come from nowhere to become an international athlete in little more than 18 months. Ryan Parker, a 15-year-old wh
Comet sports editor MARCUS CRAWLEY continues his look at some of the hopefuls who are aiming for glory at London 2012
A CLIFTON schoolboy has come from nowhere to become an international athlete in little more than 18 months.
Ryan Parker, a 15-year-old who attends Samuel Whitbread Community College, only began running competitively in early 2005.
After a success-laden introduction, this year has seen the Bedford and County athlete make some more giant strides forward.
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Running in the under-17 age group, he was runner-up at the English schools' cross-country championships.
He was then asked to join the England squad taking part in the World cross-country championships in Italy. Ryan was the youngest runner in the under-18 race and finished 11th.
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During the track season he was unbeaten in both Eastern and National Young Athletes League races.
He won bronze at the AAAs, as well as at the English Schools' Championships and the UK School Games, at 3000m and ran at Crystal Palace in an under-20 3000m at the Norwich Union Grand Prix meeting.
Ryan lives in Clifton with his parents Linda and Gary and younger brother Chris, who goes to Henlow Middle School.
Mum Linda said: "He had problems with his shins, then his knees, and he had to rest his legs between races.
"When his knee problems started, after seeking advice, he did start a daily exercise programme.
"Now his legs have improved Ryan is totally focused and dedicated to running. He puts himself through a strict daily training programme and only eats and drinks things that will improve his performance."
Ryan made swift progress after taking up running at a relatively late stage.
Needing runners to represent the school at the district cross-country championships, the head of PE at Samuel Whitbread, Lynda Tailor, picked Ryan purely by chance during 'Chinese relays'.
She certainly had no idea of his potential for the championships which took place in late January 2005 as he came home in third.
After this race he was approached by Bedford and County AC and began training with them one night a week.
Just six weeks later, Ryan finished ninth out of 332 finishers at the English schools' cross-country championships.
Next came the London mini-marathon where he finished runner-up behind his arch rival Simon Horsfield.
Ryan, now a member at Bedford, finished the track and field season unbeaten with a clutch of gold medals to add to the many trophies he had won as a talented footballer.
He also broke the club records at 800m, 1500m and 3000m as well as ranking top of the 2005 1500m UK ranking list, sixth in the 800m and top in 3000m which also placed him ninth in the all-time list.
He was also English schools' 1500m champion and AAAs champion.
During the Aldershot relays last September, Ryan took the team from fifth place - with a 52-second deficit - to the gold and smashed the course record by eight seconds.
Ryan was named as junior sports personality of the year at the Bedford Sports Awards.
Club president Fred Wooding said: "Ryan has a very rare ability to make world class", while Paula Radcliffe's coach Alex Stanton added: "In all my years of coaching, I have never seen such a talent".
Ryan is coached at Bedford and County AC by Martin Cadman plus James and Tony Tuttle.
Mum Linda added: "The team have worked with Ryan without gain for themselves.