Manchester International proved to be as thrilling as ever, with the England Team emerging as winners again. The excitement could also be felt off the field, with parents, coaches, officials, children and athletes welcoming a new addition to the England Athletics events - our very own lifesize Leonard the Lion!
For a number of years, National Champions have received a special 'Champion' cuddly toy version of Leonard with their gold medal but the much-loved memorable mascot was revealed in his true form last Wednesday.
Accompanied by Untamed and St Francis Primary School (Gorton) dance troupe performing to a remix of The Lion King, Leonard made his debut on the track, much to the delight of fans.
The spectators and athletes could dive in to greet, dance and interact with Leonard, as he walked around the stadium to cheer with the crowd - and they loved it! Extremely popular with the children, even the athletes and adults couldn’t resist the opportunity to say hello and give him a hug or a high five. England Athletics CEO Chris Jones said, "It was great to welcome life sized Leonard the Lion into the England team. He was an overwhelming hit with the youngsters (and a few of us adults too!)"
One of Leonard's first official duties was to accompany Chris Jones and Chair Myra Nimmo as they signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge, committing to change the way we all think and act about mental health in the workplace.
Some interesting facts
- Leonard means Lion-hearted, brave, strong, like a lion - from the Latin Leo meaning Lion.
- Little Leonard has a medal round his neck for winning the Pole Jump.
- Big Leonard's favourite event is the Decathlon.
- Leonard's birthday is 15 August.
- Leonard's girlfriend is called Lola the Lion.
- Leonard has his own twitter account @LeonardsPride
Little Leonard has been a fixture at our National Championships since 2015, and he's met and been photographed with loads of athletes, officials, coaches, volunteers and other mascots such as Hero the Hedgehog and Whizzbee. He's also accompanied the England Team to Samoa for the Commonwealth Youth Games and to Australia for the Commonwealth Games. His big brother Leonard hopes to meet lots of people within athletics too! If you've had your photo taken with Leonard why not post it on twitter at @LeonardsPride?
We think Leonard is a welcome addition to the England Athletics team and will help connect our young spectators with the sport.
Why not see him for yourself?
Come and enjoy our last Track and Field championships of the season in Bedford on the 25-26 August where our Under 17 and Under 15 athletes compete on the track and in the field, including the Walks Champs and the Disability Age Group Champs.
You can also follow Leonard on Twitter! Just go to @LeonardsPride to see what he is up to.