As we come to the eve of the Olympic Games' opening ceremony, the nationwide torch relay culminates in the lighting of the Olympic flame.
Many of our athletics volunteers and great athletes of the past had the opportunity of a lifetime and were one of the 8000 inspirational people to take part in the torch relay, which came within 10 miles of 95% of people in the UK. We’ve heard from a number of people about their pride in their torchbearers and they are summarised below. If you didn’t get a mention, why not post a photo and a few words on our facebook page which is at www.facebook.com/englandathletics.
Don’t forget, the England Athletics Volunteer Award nominations are now open. Perhaps a torchbearer is deserving of a nomination, or someone who didn’t get the chance to carry the flame should still be recognised? Why not nominate them in your region – there are 14 categories such as officials, coaches, clubs, volunteers, disability athletics, networks and communities - and then some regional finalists go forward to be considered for the National Awards. Go to www.englandathletics.org/awards.
A few of the people who contacted us are listed below (in no particular order!) and you can find out more detail about them on our regional pages now and in the near future or by entering their name into the Torchbearer website.
- Roy Strattonis an active Official for UKA, proving a popular and friendly member of the Officiating Team. After finishing his time as an athlete he moved into the management/ organizational side of athletics and is an invaluable member of his club Enfield and Haringey A C.
- Julia Hayes, Run England group leader for the Benson Striders which she established in South Oxfordshire and whose members nominated her, ran with the torch through Kidlington cheered on by her group plus family and friends. They said “Every village needs a Julia with her energy, enthusiasm and drive.”
- Ron Marsh is one of the coaches on the England Athletics Local Coach Development programme and coaches mostly for free at local schools including special needs, and fundraises so that they can afford the equipment needed. He his also Head Coach Wymondham AC
- Nick Tiller (studying for a PhD, Sport and Exercise Physiology at Brunel) carried the torch as it passes through the London borough of Barnet just a few miles from his home. As if that wasn’t enough, the following day he will travel up to the Lake District to take part in a single-stage 100-mile footrace for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
- Also at Brunel, Jason Arday carried the torch in Merton. He said of his selection: “It is an absolute honour! I have been so fortunate to be involved in several fundraising projects, and this opportunity is really down to all the people who contributed to our fundraising projects over the years.”
- Jane Farrier has been the Head Coach and Junior Team Manager of Orion Harriers in Waltham Forest for over 7 years. Since taking on this voluntary role she has obtained the Clubmark and is responsible for coaching, training, mentoring and encouraging the junior members of the club.
- Bryn Percival (pictured right) is also a coach in the East region and carried the torch through Huntingdon. He says, “I hope one day to be able to go to the Olympics and watch one of my athletes compete.”
- Also in the East region was Julie Boxer who runs with the Billericay Striders and occasionally help out with the juniors and was nominated for her work training Guide dogs.
- Mike Dunham volunteers and coaches Andover Athletics club and the local community. He has been an active member of the club for many years as a runner and committee member.
- Two torchbearers from Chelmsford AC are Under 17 athlete Sophie Riches (gold medallist at the 2011 European Youth 1500m) and club stalwart Sylvia Sergeant who has sent over 30 years coaching young athletes and judging at field events; as well as Team Managing and working in schools.
- Police superintendent John Powell is an inspiration to athletes from inner city London. He is one of the leading Sprint coaches in the UK.
- Mike Dooling was nominated by his son and ran at Tatton Park, Cheshire. For the past 50 years Mike has been heavily involved with his club and local network, school athletic association, the regional athletics council in the North West and as an official at a high level, as well as being greatly involved in the delivery of the ESAA championships. Mike told us, “It could not have been a better day , apart from the weather - as just before I left home I received my NTO (officials) confirmation email for the Olympics.
- Fellow Council member (this time for the East Midlands) and also involved with the ESAA John Knight was a torch bearer in Nottingham. John has been the Secretary and driving force behind Nottinghamshire Schools' Athletics for more than 30 years.
- Derek Wood, founder member of Barnet and District and ran marathons on the world circuit. He won nine world titles and continues to run almost daily. Derek was also a founder member of Barnet Athletic club and built up their veterans team and has been president for 20 years. He still organises annual family paarlauf, biathlon and orienteering.
- Scott Hydon has established and developed a thriving Athletics Club in his village: Sedgefield Harriers are now an established, respected North East Club. Scott commits around 20 hours a week to the club in a coaching and organising capacity.
- In Tyne and Wear; there was a good showing of athletics volunteers, headed up by England Athletics own Club and Coach Support Officer Nick Ridgeon for his voluntary work bringing sport to deprived areas and those who may not otherwise gain access to such activities. Also from the area is Fred Smith a coach at Saltwell Harriers and races in many fell and cross country races. Another fell runner in the area is North East champion Karen Robertson, and in her spare time she is constantly helping out at local sporting events; school athletics, swimming galas, cross country, cycling and tri events and coaching up to 4 times a week.
- In Cumbria; Dave Cannon is a inspiration, he was a long distance runner with sheer determination. After becoming ill with ME he freely devoted many hours to coaching and advising other athletes. Christopher Lamb an athlete who is also a sports leader, coach and motivator at Merseyside Schools Athletics Competition.
- Craig Birch is a young official and coach. He has been involved in the development of MMU Harriers and key partnerships with, Athletics Development Officers and the Local Athletics Network. He is a keen coach and enjoys developing young people through sport, hoping to uncover Olympic stars of the future.
- Steve Sandham, board member of the SW London Athletics Network told us, “Keith Haworth is Chairman of Stragglers Running Club, a SWLAN club. He is a torch bearer, and has put in more hours volunteering, and organizing volunteers, than anyone I know.”
- Rick Betts, who has been on the England Athletics NCDP programme for triple jump under the mentorship of Peter Stanley for the last three years carried the torch in Stockton-upon-Tees. Rick said “My voluntary coaching work is also very close to my heart as the thrill I get from seeing you people from all walks of life exceed what they thought was possible when they first join my group will never cease to give me great satisfaction.”
- Chris Cannon is a dedicated fundraiser and am passionate about running & keeping fit, loving to help others reach their own goals.
- In 1964 Mike Fleet (pictured top with David, son of Eric Thompson BASC Vice President) narrowly missed out on competing in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Since then he's still maintained a strong interest in athletics as a coach at Croydon Harriers club in South London, for an impressive 53 years. Drawing from his own international experience, Mike trained 400m Olympian Martyn Rooney and has been a huge support for fellow Olympian Donna Fraser.
- Frank Adams is another long standing club stalwart; Haringey Athletics Club (now Enfield and Haringey AC) has been phenomenal. Since the late 1970s Frank has been involved as an athlete and coach, and has filled every committee position from Chair downwards.
- Role model and coach to young athletes Bela Nagy joined the relay in London.
- Roy Clarridge has been a member of Thames Valley Harriers for over 50 years - not content to be only a coach, Roy is mini bus driver, team manager, mentor and BBQ organiser as well as torch bearer!
- Derek Howarth is an 80 year old athlete who has been associated with Leigh Harriers Athletics club for over 50 years in various roles and is still club treasurer. He joined other NW area torch bearers 84 year old John Dunne who coaches young people with disabilities up to Paralympic standard, and 81 year old Alan Hardman, a founder member of Altrincham Athletic Club in 1961, who has given 50 years of service to them. Not only has he competed for much of this time but has also served as secretary, chairman, president and coach. Manchester’s England Athletics Young Volunteer of the Year regional winner Emilie Cooper also took a turn at the relay.
- 70 year old Mike Peel carried the torch just this week. He has been running and cycling since a schoolboy and has run 31 London Marathons! He is a Past President of Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC and has been keenly involved with the organisation and running of many activities in the club.
- Also in the area is Laura Crane - a Torchbearer in Bexley and a member of Bexley AC. Laura is partially deaf and having a life threatening rare illness, this does not stop Laura competing for her club and coaching under-11 children every Sunday morning on a voluntary basis. She has transformed the coaching group and is now lead coach for about 20 youngsters between 7 and 9 years old.
- Cleethorpes AC sees a plethora of torch bearers from the club, including Keith Tyler Nick Gregory, Roy Saxby, Kay Yorston, Lisa Foster, Nik Forman and Jenny Clark. In the Grimsby area charity marathon runner Surinder Fowler took a stint over a slightly shorter distance and Grimsby Harriers’ Frank Barraclough whose Athletics Career spanned 65 years. Nearby Beverley AC had PE teacher and their chairman Robert Reid representing them.
- Kevin Murch is the Mens50 British record holder for javelin and now coaches athletes of all ages and abilities at rugby athletics track.
- Andy Seward did his bit at Braunton in Devon - he has been in sport all his life and was the chief organiser of the South Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea. He has Parkinsons and did his stint in a wheelchair then walked a few steps with the support of the Torch protection folks.
- Richard (Ritchie) Pearson is Chair of Southampton Athletic Club and a member of the England Athletics Local Coach Development Programme. He spends his time coaching and inspiring young athletes and sharing his knowledge in the hope they will love the sport as much as him.
Past and current athletes – some of whom have already been inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame included Croydon Harriers’ Twinelle Hope, Herne Hill Harriers’ Pole Vaulter Freya Cooper nominated for her voluntary work, Shot putter Gabriella Roseje, distance runner James Bates, New Forest Runners Chris Ogborne, and Enfield and Haringey's middle distance runner Darren St Clair. Autistic Carlton Pessoa has competed at national level and for Enfield and Haringey in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 x 100 metre relay. Croydon junior long-jumper Elliott Safo also ran a leg of the relay.
Athletics greats who took a leg of the relay include Jonathan Edwards, Colin Jackson, Mary Peters, Sonja O'Sullivan, Sally Gunnell, David Hemery, Dame Kelly Holmes, Marlon Devonish, Steve Backley and 101-year-old marathon runner Fauja Singh, who was also present at the Commonwealth Games baton relay 2 years ago as well as Baroness Sue Campbell who is Chair of UK Sport.
We congratulate them all, and those who dedicate endless hours to the sport of Athletics who were not in the torch relay. Remember you can still nominate deserving volunteers for the England Athletics Volunteer Awards!