Inspirational residents take part in Merton's 'second' torch relay
Eight inspirational residents carried the Olympic flame this weekend in what was Merton’s second torch relay.
Community heroes, including two former Olympians, an Olympic hopeful, an 86-year old marathon runner and a former child of courage, were cheered on by hundreds in the Wimbledon Guardian’s unofficial torch relay at an Olympic celebration at the Hub at Mitcham and Tooting FC on Saturday, July 28.
More than 150,000 lined the streets to watch the torch be carried through Merton on the 66th day of the official Olympic torch relay on Monday, July 23, by about 30 torchbearers - but not one of them was from Merton.
Both Haydon the Womble, former Olympic champion Ray Stevens and schoolgirl Jessica Maclean were selected to be torchbearers but were told to run outside of the borough, while many other deserving residents were nominated, but not selected.
So the Wimbledon Guardian invited some of Merton’s most inspirational residents to take part in our own relay to give deserving residents the chance to run with an official Olympic torch in their community.
Hosted by MP for Mitcham and Morden, Siobhain McDonagh, the event featured live music, sports coaching for children and teenagers, street dancing, Zumba, an introduction to bowling for seniors as well as a barbecue, licensed bar and giant screens to watch the Olympics.
She said: "I thought it was really touching to see people from such a wide spectrum of our community take part."
Doreen Offredi , 83, from Colliers Wood, is a former St George’s nurse who has raised thousands for charity having run 20 marathons.
A member of the Wimbledon Windmilers running club for the last 22 years, Mrs Offredi, who also enjoys belly dancing and Zumba, is taking part in the Great North Run in September for the Alzheimer’s Society.
She said: "It was fun and it was nice to get my chance with the torch."
Lorna Boothe , 57, from Mitcham, is a former British record holder and commonwealth gold and silver medallist who competed in both the 1975 Moscow Olympics and the 1980 Montreal Olympics in the 100m hurdles and later team GB's manager for nine years acting as senior manager at the Sydney 2005 Olympics.
She said: "I have been to a few Olympics and it’s just a great feeling to have it at home.
"I think the [relay] was very good for the community as it gives awareness that we have people in the community that are not only taking part in sport but volunteering."
Tremayne Gilling , 21, from Mitcham, is the son of former Olympic hurdler Lorna Boothe and third cousin of Jamaican Olympian Herb McKinley.
As the 2012 under 23 100m England champion, Tremayne is a 2016 Olympic hopeful with a personal best of 10.25s in the 100m sprint.
He said: "I wanted to run in this Olympics but it didn’t happen but it’s going to be great to watch as I have friends competing so it’s going to inspire me to make the team in 2016."
Jessica Maclean , 14, from Wimbledon Chase was one of the few Merton residents selected to run with the official Olympic torch, albeit in Lewisham.
She was nominated by a friend for her commitment to sport, despite having suffered from a long term heart condition and scoliosis of the spine forcing her to wear a back brace daily.
She is due to have a major spinal operation later this year but is currently captain of her school's hockey team, a member of the under 15 Wimbledon AFC football team and plays tennis and athletics.
Ray Stevens , 49, is a former Olympian who took home a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and has run his own studio in Wimbledon for the last five years.
He said: "I think it’s good for the community and enhances the mood that everyone’s getting into with the Olympics.
"Everyone saw the Olympic torch going onto the stadium so we are just reminding people that there are torchbearers in the community."
Laura Brennan-Probets , from Morden, was given just five days to live after being diagnosed with spina bifida at birth but has since celebrated her 30th birthday. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Miss Brennan Probets has been abseiling, caving and enjoys ten pin bowling, swimming and Boccia and has been called a "wonderful inspiration" by her aunt who nominated her to take part.
She said: "It was nice to take part.
"I have been excited for days and haven’t shut up about it."
Roger Ferreol took part in the relay on behalf of the Mitcham Filipino-British Association, a non-profit community-based organisation representing a cross-section of the Mitcham community.
The group has worked closely with organisers of the Mitcham Festival and The Age Concern in the past to bring the community together.
Dean Parsons , 38 from Morden, the man behind Wimbledon AFC mascot Haydon the Womble, carried the official torch in Sutton last week.
Over the last five years, Mr Parsons has attended countless charity events, football games and community days.
He said: "The people that were chosen to be torchbearers are from Merton for what they have individually done in Merton.
"I live in Morden so it’s an honour to come along to do this and give a bit back to the community.”
You can view more photos of our torchbearers here: yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/pictures/picturegalleries/mertontorchrelay