Inspirational Islanders who will carry the flame
THE group of Islanders who have been chosen to carry the Olympic Torch through St Helier today are as diverse as they are inspiring.
The list includes local sports stars, tireless fundraisers, dedicated volunteers and others who have overcome adversity.
Olympic organisers announced late last week that honorary policeman Mitch Couriard and open-water swimmer Sally Minty-Gravett would added to the list of torchbearers representing Jersey in the torch relay.
Mrs Minty-Gravett will also have the honour of lighting the cauldron at the Weighbridge.
Starting from Bel Royal at noon, each torchbearer will walk or run with the Olympic Flame for about 300 metres along Victoria Avenue before passing on the flame to the next person, in a procession that will last about two hours including the cauldron lighting ceremony.
A TV screen at the Weighbridge will broadcast live footage of the torch relay filmed from a helicopter and a media truck at the head of the convoy.
And the Weighbridge will be the site of celebrations from 11 am to 3 pm, with sporting challenges, food stalls, face painting and balloon artists adding to a festive atmosphere.
Twelve torches – each engraved with the crest of an Island parish – will be carried in relays from the Weighbridge to their respective parishes after the lighting of the cauldron with the official flame.
Many of the Islanders have spoken of being both nervous and excited at the prospect of carrying the Olympic Flame, describing their involvement as both an honour and an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
For each Islander who wears an official white tracksuit and thrusts an Olympic Torch into the air with pride, it is to be a moment they will never forget.
• See comprehensive coverage of this historic event in Monday's Jersey Evening Post
Sally Minty-Gravett (54), St Saviour
Sally Minty-Gravett has swum the English Channel four times in four consecutive decades, and is the only woman to have achieved that feat. She was inducted as an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 2005 and received the Centenary Cup award from the Channel Swimming Association in 1975 for making the 'Fastest Swim of the Year by a British Person' across the English Channel. She is also the president of the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club and has taught many to enjoy swimming and open-water swimming. Sally will also light the cauldron at the Weighbridge. She said: 'I'm delighted. I'm very honoured to be asked.'
Mitch Couriard (58), St Helier
Vingtenier Mitch Couriard MBE is a well-known Islander who has devoted much of his life to voluntary service. Originally trained as an electrician, he was offered a full-time role as a youth worker after a number of years volunteering for the Jersey Youth Service. In 2002 he was made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to the community, especially to the Jersey honorary police and young people in Jersey. Mitch said that being selected as a torch bearer was 'a great honour', adding that when he received the news last week he was so surprised that he called Olympic organisers to check whether or not it was a joke.
Alison Christie-Upton (42), St Helier
Alison Christie-Upton was the first Jersey-born person to play international rugby, representing Scotland from 1994 to 2004 and earning 61 caps. During that time, she went to three Rugby World Cups, played for the Classic British Lionesses team twice and represented the Scottish Saltires at the first Hong Kong 7s tournament. Alison also participated in five Island Games as a swimmer and represented Jersey in swimming at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. Since retiring from international competition, she has coached both swimmers and rugby players. Alison, who was nominated by her sister, was described as 'an inspiration to me and many other sports women in Jersey'.
Alex Buesnel (19), St Saviour
Jersey gymnast Alex Buesnel was described in his nomination as 'a great ambassador for disability gymnastics'. The youngster is the current British Gymnastics Disabilities Open champion, a title he has won on four consecutive occasions, and member of the national squad. As well as winning the over title last year, he won seven gold medals at the event which is considered to be one of the toughest challenges in special gymnastics. When he is not training hard, he sets aside his spare time to train junior members of the Jersey Special Gymnastics Club.
Andrew Le Seelleur (43), St Helier
Andrew Le Seelleur co-founded Le Tournoi, which hosts corporate sporting events including football tournaments and sailing challenges to raise money for charity, in 2000 after a one-off fundraising football event proved hugely popular. Since its launch, the organisation has donated around £250,000 to local charities. Le Tournoi has a strong emphasis on participation and encourages the charities it supports to get involved in sport. Andrew said: 'I don't know who nominated me, I'm thrilled because things like this don't happen to the normal guy in the street and it came out of the blue. It is a massive honour and great recognition for Le Tournoi as well.'
Anthony Lewis (43), Grouville
Former Jersey Evening Post assistant editor Anthony Lewis suffered a stroke following a football accident in 2007 which left him with partial paralysis and severe aphasia, a disability that affects his ability to communicate. In 2010 walked the Jersey Marathon over five days, raising £25,000 for the Stroke Association. In September, Anthony plans to lead 125 Islanders on a 320-mile charity cycle challenge from London to Paris to raise money for the association and another local charity, Driving for the Disabled. A number of people nominated Anthony for the honour, including one who praised his 'determination to carry on fundraising and charity work' despite facing adversity. Using iPad technology that allows him to communicate, Anthony said: 'Wow. I am happy, it's great. Olympic Torch, exciting.'
Charlotte Samson (18), St Lawrence
Dave Thompson (67), St Helier
Boxing stalwart Dave Thompson MBE was selected as a torch bearer but unfortunately had to withdraw from the Olympic Torch Relay this week because of serious illness. He has been a coach at Leonis Amateur Boxing Club since the early 1970s, and prior to that he was a boxer for several years. Dave was made an MBE in 2006 for his services to young people and his contribution to boxing. He has been a mentor to many young fighters over the years, including a number who had come from difficult backgrounds. A family member may carry the torch on his behalf or another Islander will be selected to take his place.
Hayley De Putron (50), St Peter
Hayley de Putron, global head of investor relations at De Putron Fund Management, was nominated for her support of Team GB 2012, which according to her nomination has helped 'up and coming British athletes around the UK have had a chance to realise their potential and many will go on to realise the biggest dream of all - competing at the Olympics or Paralympics in London'. The person who nominated her to carry the torch said that the honour 'would be a fitting tribute to a highly supportive individual in recognition of her remarkable commitment to sport'.
Jeni Knowland (53), St Helier
For the past four years, Jeni Knowland and a group of her work colleagues have been tirelessly fundraising for a range of worthy charities. She said that they focused on small local organisations as they were sometimes overlooked and because it would help other Islanders in need. The person who nominated Jeni said that 'their unselfish efforts have probably touched hundreds of people without asking for any thanks or expecting any praise'. Jeni said that she was both 'nervous and excited' about being a torchbearer on Sunday.
Jenny Browne (23), St Saviour
Personal trainer Jenny Browne was nominated to be a torchbearer for her efforts in coaching a blind woman, Jennifer Stafford, for the 2011 London Marathon. Jennifer, who completed the marathon in seven hours to raise funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind, said that she would not have been able to do so without the support. This year, Jenny decided to take on the challenge herself and completed London Marathon in aid of the Asthma Society. Jenny was nominated by her mother who said: 'it would mean a great deal to Jenny if she was selected to be a torchbearer for the 2012 Olympics'.
Judith Jones (58), St Helier
Judith Jones has been involved in Jersey's After Breast Cancer Support Group for more than 10 years in various roles including treasurer and chairman. She often gives up her weekends to support cancer sufferers and their families who are going through a difficult time. On her nomination form, Judith was described as 'an unsung hero and a vital part of the community'. They also said that she deserved to carry the Olympic Torch because volunteers her time without complaint and 'is an inspiration' to others.
Ken White (59), St Clement
Runner Ken White co-founded the Jersey Spartan Athletics Club in 1978 after moving to the Island from the UK. He has been winning races for the last 40 years in a range of long-distance running events and is currently working towards representing England in over 60s cross country. His nomination form said that he had 'forged the foundations to inspire and build the careers of over a generation of Island athletes by still competing and running to a high standard and hoping to pull younger athletes to reach this standard'.
Mark Harris (44), St Helier
Mark Harris ran seven marathons in seven days for charity in September 2011. By completing the 183-mile circuit, he raised £9,000 for the brain injury charity Headway, where he works as a services manager. Over the years, he has completed 24 marathons - most of them in aid of charity - and has encouraged other Islanders to do the same. The feats are made more impressive as at the age of 23 he was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition he endured for nine years but has since recovered. Mark said that he is 'starting to get a bit nervous and has had a few sleepless nights' but is looking forward to carrying the Olympic Flame.
Paola Mitchell (43) St Clement
Exercise referral practitioner and personal trainer Paola Mitchell works with the elderly, people with chronic conditions and people recovering from major illnesses to help improve their fitness for a better quality of life. The person who nominated her said that they could think of 'no one more fitting to carry the Olympic torch', and described her as 'an inspiration to her clients through her never ending enthusiasm and compassion'. She also represented Jersey in volleyball at the Island Games in her youth and more recently has raised £13,000 for Jersey Hospice through fundraising efforts including cycling through Vietnam, Ecuador and South Africa.
Richard Collinson (69), St Helier
BBC sports journalist Richard Collinson has been involved in local sport for many years. As well as reporting on sport for the national broadcaster for the past 28 years, he has also coached a number of football teams including St Ouen, First Tower United and several of the Island's youth sides. He was a teacher at Victoria College Preparatory School for more than 30 years and was also instrumental in helping to set up the Island Games. The person who nominated him said that he had 'dedicated his life to sport and to providing coaching for young people'.
Steve Kett (44), St Brelade
Steve Kett has been involved in Scouts for most of his life, starting when he was just eight years old. He has volunteered for the organisation for more than 25 years and is currently the leader of the 3rd St Saviour Cub Pack. He organises regular meetings and activities for the Scouts, which aims to provide personal development opportunities and adventurous activities for the Island's youth. Steve said that carrying the Olympic Torch would be an 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a great event and a great experience which I can recount to the youngsters'.
Tony Burt (52), St Martin
Former boxer Tony Burt was nominated by the team at South Hill Gym, where he volunteers as a coach four days a week helping to train young fighters at the Jersey Leonis Amateur Boxing Club. He was an amateur boxer for about 15 years and won about eighty per cent of his bouts which were fought across the UK and France. Those who nominated him said that he 'has been a credit to the sport of amateur boxing'. Tony said that although he was excited about carrying the Olympic Flame, he had mixed feelings as his fellow boxing coach Dave Thompson has been forced to pull out of the Torch Relay due to ill health.
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