Torchbearers embrance Olympic moment

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MORPETH’S torchbearers fully embraced their moment in the Olympic spotlight.

Runners in the town and elsewhere enjoyed the experience and they were blown away with the response from the crowds supporting them.

Olympian and Commonwealth Games Gold medallist Jim Alder, of Ellington, was a surprise runner for the Morpeth leg of the relay, his participation having been kept a secret until the morning of the event.

The Morpeth Harriers President took the flame from Bridge Street, across Telford Bridge to Castle Square.

He said: “It was a good day and a great experience. All those who criticise the Olympic Games should look long and hard at the public involvement. For a crowd like that to turn out on such a wet day speaks volumes.

“I was very flattered to be nominated to carry the torch. It’s a long time since I worked a crowd.”

Bankside resident Stevie Matthews did her 300m section in Choppington just after 10.15am, heading down Sheepwash bank towards the river.

The 60-year-old has run long-distance races or ultra-marathons in every continent, many for charity, and entered the 2006 Guinness World Records book as the fastest woman to complete the North Pole Marathon.

“I was very emotional because it’s something I’ve dreamt about in the past when watching previous torch relays, but I never thought in a million years that I would be part of it one day,” she said.

“I said ‘wow’ when I received it because it’s such an impressive structure.”

David Lowe, 47, travelled from Castle Square in Morpeth to the Mafeking Park roundabout for the final leg of five.

He spent 20 years as a mechanical engineer before becoming a district nurse in Rothbury. He is also a Scout Group Leader in the village.

“It was a fantastic day and a great experience,” he said.

“All the support I received was amazing, I didn’t think that there would be so many people during my bit of the relay.”

Gerda Andries is a Belgian athlete who trains more than 130 children in her local club. She ran along some of Howard Terrace, Copper Chare and a small section of Newgate Street.

The 47-year-old, who currently takes part in heptathlon and decathlon events, has three Belgian records and a European medal to her name.

She said: “I feel very proud to be running in the Olympic Torch Relay and I’m very grateful for the support from the people of Morpeth.”

King Edward VI School student Kate Charlton, who lives in Longframlington, is a prominent member of the Morpeth Hunt branch of the Pony Club and she led a project featured on ITV Tyne Tees to show people that equestrian is not just a sport for rich people.

The Year 13 pupil will also be a volunteer at the cross country section of the Olympic eventing competition in Greenwich Park. She ran with the torch on Thursday at Foulden near Berwick.

“It was a fantastic day and it felt great to hear people shouting my name as I went along,” she said.

“When we were on the bus being taken to our positions we were pointing and waving to the crowds – it felt like I was the Queen.”

Terry Nicholls, 70, grew up in Morpeth and as well as competing for Morpeth Harriers, he was the Northumberland cross country captain at national junior competitions and the 100m and 200m champion at King Edward Grammar School.

He has climbed mountains all over the world and trained the next generation of expedition leaders as a consultant for the British Mountaineering Council. He also did his 300m stint on Thursday, his location was Milton Bridge near Penicuik in Scotland.

“I enjoyed every minute of it and I had a lot of support from friends and family, including one of my sons who came over from America,” said Mr Nicholls.

“Carrying the torch was a proud moment and one I will never forget.”

Stephen Parsons, 25, who was nominated for his rugby and cricket coaching roles in Morpeth, carried the torch from outside Appleby’s in Newgate Street, Morpeth, to half way along Bridge Street.

He said: “Getting the flame was a bit of a blur. I just started to go down the road and saw my friends and family and I thought ‘just enjoy it and don’t drop it’.

“I’m still on Cloud ten, by tomorrow I’ll probably be on Cloud seven and it will probably be Tuesday when I’m back at work that I might get back to normal. I’m sure it will sink in eventually.”

• Read more in-depth coverage of the Olympic torchbearers’ reaction in next week’s Morpeth Herald.