Olympic torchbearers from Comet country announced

A DISABLED badminton player, a decathlete, a marathon man and a 12-year-old schoolgirl have all been chosen to carry the Olympic flame.

The names of more than 7,300 torchbearers who will take part in the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay were announced yesterday (Monday).

Among them is Stevenage residents Gobi Ranganathan and John Mayor, who will both take the torch through their hometown on Sunday, July 8.

Gobi, 35, suffers from spina-bifida and is a para-badminton player for Badminton England. Fellow athlete John Mayor, who began as a marathon runner but turned to decathlon, will be involved 30 years after he began competing.

“I was overjoyed when I heard - it’s a great honour,” said the 53-year-old, who will be running for Great Britain in the World Masters Indoor Championships which takes place in Finland in April.

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“I’m going to get as many friends and family down to watch as I can. I think we’re going to have a great turnout and hopefully the town will give the torch a big welcome.”

Fellow MBDA employee and Stevenage resident Fred Gormer - who has been friends with John through running since 1983 - will also be holding the flame during the Welwyn Garden City leg, which follows Stevenage.

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“We were very optimistic that we would hand over to each other!” said the 62-year-old former Great Britain representative at 5,000m and cross country.

“I carried the Commonwealth baton years ago and that was great - it’s a privilege and an honour to be involved in the Olympics.”

Hitchin resident Celia Watson, 54, said she was “delighted, very excited, nervous and honoured” when she was told she’d be carrying the torch through Letchworth GC.

The keen mountaineer, who works with children with behavioural difficulties at the Education Support Centre in Stevenage, added: “I’m very excited to be in Letchworth - I would’ve been excited if they told me it was running it in Scotland but it’s fantastic to be running so close to home. Hitchin would’ve been even better but I’m thrilled.”

John Harris, from Baldock, has also been named as a torchbearer in Letchworth GC.

The 49-year-old, who voluntarily coaches sport to young people and set up Team Baldock FC, said: “To carry the torch at the 2012 Olympics alongside the other inspirational future flames, is a huge honour and one that I will cherish for many years to come. By carrying the torch, I hope that it will inspire young people to achieve great things in their lives.”

Marathon man Kevin Lawlor, from Hitchin, will play his part in the Luton to Oxford route on July 9.

“I’m proud as punch,” said the 54-year-old, who has ran more than 400 marathons since the inaugural Stevenage Marathon in 1984.

“In the early years I was doing about 40 marathons a year and now I’m a little older I’m probably down to about eight.”

There are 20 12-year-olds from schools across the UK taking part and two live in Comet country. Thomes Alleyne student Luca Wells will be carrying the torch through his hometown of Stevenage, while Princess Helena College pupil Hannah Gallaher will be involved in St Albans the day before.

Hannah, from Langley End near Hitchin, plays netball and lacrosse for the school in Preston and said she was excited to be involved in a “once in a lifetime event”.

The 12-year-old will be joined in St Albans by Letchworth GC resident John Eastwell and Claire Weston, from Stevenage.

In total, 8,000 torchbearers will take part in the relay which runs from May 19 to July 27, with more names to be revealed in the coming months.

*Have you been named as a torchbearer? If so, email nick.gill@thecomet.net

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