‘To do this is such a goal for Ben - but he’s not just doing it for himself’
IN the midst of a 70 day journey and travelling a staggering 8,000 miles around the UK before its arrival in London kick starts the 2012 Olympic Games, Doncaster’s contribution to the torch relay might seem small in comparison.
The flame, held aloft in a succession of those glimmering gold torches, will be on the town’s streets for just under four hours and for approximately 14 miles on a route that takes in Conisbrough, Warmsworth, Doncaster town centre, Armthorpe, Hatfield and Dunsville en route from Sheffield to Cleethorpes on day 39 of its marathon journey.
Tuesday, June 26 is the date and 9.50am the time when the torch will begin its journey through the Doncaster area, arriving in Conisbrough before making a farewell bow at Hatfield at 1.39pm - and yes, the timings are that precise.
The youngest torchbearer is just 12 years old, the oldest 74 with all manner of runners and walkers of all ages inbetween.
Each will have a 300 metre stint with the flame before passing it on to another torch bearer in a ceremony known as “the kiss” when the two torches are held together to transfer the flame which will eventually light up the Olympic Stadium in London’s East End on July 27.
And behind each and every one of the 40 runners carrying the flame through Doncaster is a story, some well-known, others not so but all with one common link - chosen by organisers to carry the nation’s pride for just a few short moments in the shape of a flickering orange glow as reward for their achievements.
Brave paratrooper Ben Parkinson will no doubt receive the loudest cheers when he hoists the flame into the air on his route through the town centre - watched by proud mum Diane Dernie and countless family, friends and supporters who have helped him on his long road to recovery - including Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne who is also hoping to be there.
She said: “I think I will be crying buckets on the day. It will be incredibly emotional but we are all absolutely thrilled Ben has been chosen for such a prestigious honour.”
Ben, who lost both both his legs and suffered severe brain damage from an explosion in Afghanistan in 2006, will use his prosthetic limbs to complete his journey with his physio alongside him for support. Added Diane: “We are unbelievably proud of him to see how far he has come. To do this is such a goal for him - but he’s not just doing it for himself.
“It’s for those who said he would never walk again and for the lads who didn’t come back from Afghanistan. He is doing it for everybody - and afterwards we will be having a big party to celebrate.”
Inspirational Belton teenager Jack Marshall has also been selected to carry the torch as it wends its way around Doncaster.
Jack has Moebius Syndrome, a rare condition which has left him blind in one eye, hearing loss in both ears and severely disabled with problems in his hips, knees and feet and has undergone numerous operations on his legs, eyes, ears and mouth. However, he has raised £20,000 for charity on a number of sponsored runs and amazed doctors with his determination.
Up and coming sports stars will also be doing their bit.
Mexborough’s Ben Bowns, 21, an ice hockey player with a string of honours behind him including England and GB call-ups will run through Warmsworth while Olivia Buxton, 12, a keen young hockey, netball and rounders player has been picked for her dedication to sport, captaining her teams and also helping other youngsters with training.
Charity fundraiser Simon Boguszewski, 43, who has collected more than £20,000 for kidney research over the last five years, will be one of the runners on the Armthorpe leg - and described the moment he found out that he’d been picked as “incredible”.
“I think I will be quite nervous on the day because it’s such a huge one-off - there’ll never be anything like this again in our lifetime. To be chosen is a real honour,” he said.
Simon was picked for his dedication to charity, running a string of marathons after his daughter Jasmine suffered kidney failure seven years ago - a condition from which she has since made a full recovery - and she will be there along with mum Jemma and sister Abbie-Star.
Like all the other torchbearers, Simon, of Bawtry, will only receive his torch, white and gold uniform and instructions on the day, being picked up from his home by Olympic organisers and transported to the start point.
“I’ll have my family there to support me,” he said. “It will be wonderful.”
Rossington’s Simon Wheatcroft, 30, a blind ultra marathon runner, will be joining him in Armthorpe. Simon, who lost his sight 12 years ago will run his leg without a guide runner and said: “It feels amazing to be selected because a lot of other people were nominated to carry the torch.”
Others chosen include learning disabled Adrian Howes, 47, a Great Britain medal winner at the 1991 Special Olympics, and 28-year-old James Needham, who was confined to a wheelchair following a car accident seven years ago but who has since gone on to play wheelchair rugby for England. Community stalwarts have also been honoured with a stint carrying the torch.
YMCA volunteer Craig Tobin, 28, who has helped young people enjoy the arts, will run a Doncaster leg, Julie Arnold, 47, a learning support assistant at Rossington All Saints Academy who has helped children with autism will pull on her trainers to pound the streets of Warmsworth while Katie Ogley, president of Junior Chamber International, who has been responsible for organising charity fundraising events will be hitting the road in Dunsville.
Brownies leader Leah Wren, 17, an active member of the Doncaster Youth Council and Youth Parliament will carry the flame through Warmsworth, fitness expert Steve Keast, 53, who has encouraged scores of people to take up running will be on Doncaster torch duty while charity fundraiser Acker Shaw, 63, of Rossington, who will carry the torch through Conisbrough described the moment he heard he had been selected as “immensely proud”.
THE Olympic Torch will arrive in Doncaster in just twelve days time - when dozens of torchbearers will proudly carry the flame through the town’s streets. Features editor DARREN BURKE profiles the chosen few.
Name-Age-Hometown-Carrying flame through
Juan Valdez-50-Santa Domingo-Dunsville