The remarkable Rebecca Adlington was celebrated as an Olympic hero in her home town of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, ten miles up the road from my home, this evening. Freestyle swimmer won Gold medalsat both 400M and 800M in Beijing to become the first swimmer in the games for around 100 years to perform such a feat.
The 19 year-old ‘girl next door’ from the North Nottinghamshire town witnessed 10,000 onlookers come out in the town to celebrate and commemorate her stunning success in China, lining the streets and filling the Market Place in a jubilee event. Rebecca arrived at the Civic Centre in a gold-coloured Rolls Royce to receive the pair of Jimmy Choo shoes which had been promised to her by the Mayor of Mansfield, Tony Eggington in the event of her striking gold in the games.
Enthusiastic crowds gathered with Union flags and banners plus huge gold medals in a time of celebration in the town to show their pleasure at the local girl’s medal haul and setting a new world record in the 800M event – a record that had stood since the year Rebecca was born back in 1989. Over 100 of Rebecca’s neighbours turned out in the street to laud her praises also.
The celebration marks years of dedication and hard work from the Nottinghamshire athlete, her usual weekly workload measuring a weekly thirty hours in the pool and 5 am starts every day.
Mayor Eggington was particularly lavish in his praise for Rebecca, claiming her to be a credit to herself her family and to Mansfield. He also stressed that his fervent wish would be that the Olympian could now be looked up to as a role model to inspire other local youngsters to emulate her success if they work hard and show the dedication that Mansfield girl has.
Rebecca received her prized Jimmy Choo shoes, presented on a velvet cushion decorated with red, white and blue ribbons this evening. Meanwhile thousands of well wishers crowded into the Market Place to view her successes replayed on giant outdoor screens. The unassuming and refreshingly on-the-ground young athlete was quoted as saying: “I don’t think the world record is going to sink in for quite a while but the races, however, I have watched back enough – mum and dad keep playing them over and over again and he makes me watch the whole thing and I say, ‘dad – I’ve seen it!’.”
What now to follow Rebecca’s stunning success in China? Her coach Bill Furness claims that she is now allowed a treat or two. According to Furness her latest main objective is simply a meal at McDonalds. Who could begrudge her that?
The postscript to this feelgood story is that Rebecca’s is a rags to riches story. Mansfield, as those of who know the town and it’s inhabitants a little deserves such rich success after some of the hardships that have befallen the town in the recent past. The former mining town in Nottinghamshire has not had it’s problems to seek, in particular after the closing of the local coal mining industry and the financial hardships that created.
Local actor, the excellent Colin Tarrant who played Brian Clough in the theatrical production, ‘Old Big ‘Ead in The Spirit of the Man’ once related a story about his home town when talking about the mercurial football manager and how he felt a kindredness with him through a common working-class mining background. Colin comes from Kirkby-in-Ashfield a similar and neighbouring town of Mansfield. He claimed that his wasn’t an important nor necessarily a highly respected background. To paraphrase, he claimed ‘all we did was provide the coal that gave the country electricity and light, nothing that important’. Of course Colin was being a little sardonic but the point was taken. I like the people I find in places such as Mansfield and the like. to use an old cliche they’re pretty much the ‘salt of the earth’. I’m glad to be celebrating the success of one of their own this evening. Here’s to Becky and her home town of Mansfield. May they celebrate long and hard.