Bromley Olympic torch relay- meet the torchbearers

PUBLISHED: 10:24 19 July 2012

John Powell and James Ellington in South Korea

John Powell and James Ellington in South Korea


There are just four days to go until the Olympic Torch passses through our borough – the largest in the capital.

The flame will enter from Lewisham at around 8.50am where it will be passed to the first of 29 Bromley torch bearers – some of whom have been preparing for months.

Here, the Bromley Times meets the inspirational people carrying the icon on Monday.

It’s been quite a year for John Powell, who became the UK’s oldest IVF father in February.

His daughter Jasmine will be cradled by John’s wife Chenphen, when he runs through Bromley on Monday holding the iconic Olympic Torch.

And there’s something else for the 53-year-old former Bromley and Blackheath Harriers athletics coach to be proud of – one of his protégés, James Ellington, has qualified for the 200m event on August 7.

He said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be part of the torch relay. It’s already an incredible year for me with my daughter born in February, and the thought of my wife and her lining the streets watching me jog past is simply awe-inspiring.

“I enjoyed my greatest moment as a coach seeing a young man I have coached for 13 years win the UK Championship and qualify for the Olympics 200 metres.”

John, of Fieldway, Petts Wood, has worked as a sprints coach for 36 years and is so dedicated to sport that he has re-mortgaged his house an incredible five times to finance travelling around the globe with his athletes.

He was nominated by Tim Allerdyce, a physiotherapist at Croydon Physiotherapy Osteopathy and Sports Injury Clinic.

“He gives up so much of his time as a volunteer for the athletes, and gives them so much support,” explained Tim. “He is their mentor, guardian. He takes them into his home when they have nowhere else to stay.”

John’s coaching has run alongside a 30-year career as a police officer. He retired as a Superintendent in the Met in October. He established MetTrack, a police-funded programme to get inner city children off the streets and into athletics, keeping them out of trouble and turning them into sprint stars.

Tim added: “I respect him for all his hard work over the years in coaching young athletes and his story is an inspiration to others.”

John began coaching in 1978 when he oversaw Blackheath Harriers’ youth scheme.

He helped with the project until 1993, when he switched to Belgrave Harriers.

It was there that John managed youth and junior teams to national finals, but since 2000, his focus has been on coaching individuals rather than club teams.

He has had athletes in most European or World Junior Championships since 1994, along with some Commonwealth Games, the Athens Olympics, and other major events.

Sports stars he has coached include Phillips Idowu, Joice Maduaka, Chris Lambert, Tim Abeyie, Dwayne Grant and James Ellington.

He has just returned from the USA with his training squad and is now looking forward to the honour of running with the flame. He added: “The London Olympics will be an event that many will never forget, and to think that I will at some stage be carrying the Olympic Flame is amazing.”

Jamie Narborough, 20, Cordwell Road, Lewisham

Jamie, who has undergone surgery for a club foot and bowel cancer, hopes to inspire people as part of his Olympic journey.

“I’ve had some difficult times in life but have always fought to overcome them. I want to share my story so others can make sure they don’t let anything stop them from achieving their dreams.”

The Queen Mary University student was nominated by his mum and is ‘overwhelmed’ to have been chosen.

Although he began to consistently train for the event, Jamie admits that recent efforts involve no more than an occasional run.

“I’ve been talking to other torchbearers and they’ve all said that the time goes really fast. I’ve now decided to take a slow jog or a walk as I want to make the most of it. I’m really, really excited and can’t wait for the day to arrive.”

Juan-Fernando Gomez, 23, assistant bank manager, Brayards Road, Peckham

Former semi-professional footballer Juan likened the experience of running with the iconic torch to a cup final, describing it as nerve-wracking but also highly exciting.

“It still hasn’t completely sunk in. It’s such a huge honour to be carrying the torch through Bromley.”

The 23-year-old, who is a former Bromley College student, has even paid to take the torch home after the event.

“The torch will be a part of history and so taking it home will be amazing. It will be a great keepsake for both me and my daughter to remember the event by.”

Antony Lewis-Crosby, 65, former manager of a London orchestra, Hosach Road, Wandsworth

Antony, who was nominated by his next door neighbour, admits he was surprised to be put forward in the first place - let alone be chosen for the role.

“I was taken aback when I heard what my neighbour had done and so to be selected was just extraordinary. I’m very excited and have a lot of friends and family coming down to watch.”

The retired father-of-two, whose son has cystic fibrosis, was nominated for his extensive charity work.

“I fundraise for several charities but the main one is the Cystic Fibrosis Trust which is based in Bromley.”

Laura Mitchell, 27, former Bromley College student studying adult independence, Manor Park, Chislehurst

Sports enthusiast Laura Mitchell, 27, carried the torch eight years ago for the Athens Olympics.

Ms Mitchell, who has Down’s syndrome, was selected for the London leg of the Torch relay in 2004.

Ms Mitchell’s mum, Ruth, 60, of Manor Park, believes she deserves to be selected again to carry the torch around Bromley.

“I am extremely proud of her,” she said. “She is very easy going and she is also enthusiastic.”

Last summer, the Chislehurst girl swam at the Special Olympics - an event invites top sportsmen and women who have learning disabilities to compete.

“I am really excited about being torch bearer,” said Ms Mitchell.

Debbie Middleton, 36, works in corporate finance at Deloitte Bank, Wandsworth.

Debbie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphona four years ago but continued to play club netball.

When she got the all clear from Royal Marsden Hospital the decision was made to attempt to make a world record attempt for the longest netball match.

The game lasted 60 hours and raised nearly £65,000 for the Royal Marsden Hospital.

““We did have the record but it has been broken since, but I have still got the certificate,” said Ms Middleton. “I still look back on that fondly.”

Ms Middleton says she couldn’t believe it when she got the confirmation phone call from LOCOG saying she had been selected to run the Bromley leg.

“Amazing, I think when I got the voicemail I was shaking just to see if it was right,” she said. “It is a real honour.”

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