Bury’s torch bearers prepare for 300 metres of glory

Staff at Waitrose are running with the Olympic torch on Saturday. ''FL; Michelle Gidney and Emily Rogers will be running with the Olympic torch through Bury St Edmunds.
Staff at Waitrose are running with the Olympic torch on Saturday. ''FL; Michelle Gidney and Emily Rogers will be running with the Olympic torch through Bury St Edmunds.
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THE Olympic Flame arrives in Bury St Edmunds tomorrow, nearly two months after it started its journey at Land’s End.

For an hour, 15 torch bearers from as far away as Kowloon will carry the torch through the heart of the town.

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They start the relay on the A143 Horringer Road at about 3.40pm (see the route map on Page 9). It will be carried along Out Westgate and Westgate Street to the Greene King brewery at about 3.50pm.

After a 15-minute break, it will continue along Crown Street, Angel Hill, Mustow Street, Northgate Street, Fornham Road, Tollgate Lane and Beetons Way, finishing at the West Suffolk Athletics Track at about 4.45pm.

With the forecast for bright spells with thundery showers, the organising committee (Locog) is urging spectators to dress for the weather, because the crowds will be out in it a lot longer than the torch bearers who only have to do 300m in the rain.

A Locog spokeswoman said: “We do have attractive, transparent ponchos which give bearers protection, but by and large they want to grit their teeth and get on with it. They don’t want the weather to beat them.

“We are suggesting they wear an additional layer underneath the tracksuit, for warmth and as a ‘safety’ layer because they are white.”

The tracksuits go translucent when wet.

There is a system of chaperones for bearers under 18, while those with disabilities can have a carer with them when carrying the torch.

Of the 15 torch bearers on the Bury section, only two – Michelle Gidney and Richard Fitzsimons – are from Bury. Alysia McIntyre is from Stowmarket and the rest are from as far away as Llandudno and Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, bearers from the Bury and Thetford areas are doing their bit as far apart as Spalding and Chelmsford (see Page 8).

Locog says it has tried to give people venues within an hour of home, but this has not always been possible.

Its spokeswoman said that with 8,000 bearers and names coming from three sponsors and Locog’s lists, sorting out the running order was complex.

But Michelle Gidney, 41, will be running in her home town. She works in Bury Waitrose and won her place in a staff newspaper competition.

“I’m just an ordinary person,” she said. “People like Will.I.Am and David Beckham have done it, now I’m going to do it.”

Her sponsors CocaCola are buying her torch for her, where Locog charges £195. “I’ve had lots of requests from people to take it round their houses. I’ll be taking it to work,” she said.

Richard Fitzsimons was nominated for his work with the addiction charity Focus12 and said: “I would only consider parting with [the torch] if someone offered me a stupid amount of money I could donate to them. I’ll keep it for my kids, who think it’s marvellous.”

He is fit, having trained for a London to Brighton bike ride, but will still take it easy. “I haven’t seen anybody running with it,” he said.” Everybody is savouring the moment and people on the streets don’t want to see people sprinting past.”

Alysia McIntyre, from Stowmarket, was nominated by her mother Gisela who said the 21-year-old had always wanted to be an Olympian since medallist Larry Achike gave her a coaching session in the long jump when she was eight.

She may not have proved Olympic class but she has passed on sports skills by setting up a netball programme at Eburru Secondary School, near Naivasha, Kenya, during her gap year.

She will be using the torch to raise funds for them but will also take it to her old school, Moreton Hall Primary. She added: “I’m excited about carrying the torch but I’m really excited about visiting my old school with it.”

Sarah Farley, 28, from Long Melford, works as an assistant buyer at Greene King in Bury and was nominated by friends for her interest in the Olympics.

“I am sure I’ll be nervous on the day, especially when I see everybody watching, but at the moment I am just excited,” she said.

Blind ex-serviceman Billy Baxter will travel from Llandudno, where he works for the charity Blind Veterans UK, but he has family around Bury who will cheer him. He lost his sight in Bosnia but did the 2001 London Marathon and holds the blind land speed record for a solo motorbike at 164mph. “I will be carrying it for all service men and women,” he said.

Even he has not come as far as Chai Wai Frankie Tang who is from Kowloon. He ran a huge fund-raising campaign in his home town for vicitms of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

The youngest bearer n the Bury section is Kyle Mclean, 12, from Essex, who was nominated by a service for youngsters on the point of permanent exclusion from their mainstream school because of the way he has turned his life around. The oldest is Bernie Cotton, 64, from Bishops Stortford, who competed at the 1972 Olympics with the British hockey team.

Other bearers are Carolyn Hare, 50, of Bedford; Jenny Kent, 18, and Matthew Humphrey, 31, of Cambridge; Martin Mead, 26, of Witham and Ryan Jay, 18, Stewart Bethell, 37, and Tom Duncan, 24, of Ipswich.

(Home towns are as stated by Locog.)