As Olympics loom, local high-flying athletes feature in new schools guide

WITH less than two months until the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Borders schoolchildren are being inspired by the stories of 15 Olympians and Paralympians who are either local or have links to this region.

Sunday, 3rd June 2012, 2:25 pm

The unique project is the brainchild of the Heritage Hub based at Hawick, which decided to mark Olympic year by creating storyboards about people from the Borders who have achieved excellence in their chosen sports by taking part in the world’s greatest sporting events.

The resulting booklet, Borders Olympians and Paralympians – A Learning Resource, aims to help schools add a unique local dimension to the many exciting Olympics projects running across the region in the build up to the games, which open on July 27.

And in a collaboration with the Heritage Hub, which houses the regional archive and local history centre, TheSouthern will be running profiles of a number of these athletes each week as we build towards the opening of the Olympic Games.

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The booklet has been compiled by The Hub’s Keith Polson and Henry Gray, from Eyemouth, who works for Borders Sport and Leisure Trust and has more than 30 years involvement in sport and sports coaching.

Currently coach to one of the world’s top junior indoor 800m runners, Guy Learmonth, Mr Gray has also coached Joyce Mark, a double world age group champion at duathlon and triathlon.

In addition, he has trained 50 Scottish swimming finalists, while world hill running championships silver team medallist, Jill Mykura, also enjoyed the benefits of his coaching.

Moreover, as a lifelong sports historian, with a particular passion for studying the achievements of sportsmen and sportswomen in his native Borders, Mr Gray played a major role in establishing the Borders Sports Hall of Fame.

Among the athletes featured in the booklet are swimmer Douglas Welsh, three-day eventer Ian Stark, boxer Douglas Young, discus champion Rosemary Payne, American hurdler Craig Dixon, steeplechaser Bronislaw Malinowski and the legendary sprinter, Eric Liddell. An additional aim of the project is to contribute to the Olympic Games 2012 legacy programme, by focusing on one of the key themes, A Connected Scotland. This aims to use the games to enthuse and engage young people in active learning across a wide range of areas in Curriculum for Excellence.

It also taps into existing interest in Get Set – the London Olympics 2012 education programme. As well as profiles of Borders Olympians and Paralympians, the booklet contains storyboards for nine Olympians with local connections in order to widen the range of learning and to maximise human-interest value.

In addition, it charts the stories of three Borderers who went on to coach Olympic athletes.

It has taken Mr Gray 30 years to collect and collate the information contained in the booklet. “A booklet like this was always something I wanted to do and, with Keith’s expertise on the writing side, I think we’ve produced something that will not only help educate and inspire youngsters but will preserve this valuable historical record for future generations,” he told TheSouthern this week.

Overall uptake of the booklet has been highly positive so far, with 17 schools and more than 400 pupils across the region signing-up to the learning resource.

Vicky Davidson, of Scottish Borders Council, commented: “Henry Gray’s extremely dedicated approach to the project and highly expert input into it, alongside the efforts of the Hub team, have ensured that the children and young people of the region can access a quite unique and absolutely invaluable learning resource.”

And among the feedback already attracted is praise from the Eric Liddell Centre in Edinburgh, which commented: “The Heritage Hub and Henry Gray’s Olympians learning resource supports Curriculum for Excellence literacy, social studies and citizenship work and much, much more. It is also an excellent lifelong learning resource.”

Hawick High School rector, Alan Williamson, said: “Great work – an excellent Curriculum for Excellence learning resource for schools.”

While Dr Irene O’Brien, chair of the Scottish Council on Archives, was also complementary. She said: “Fantastic news about the Hub’s Olympians programme now reaching more than 400 children and young people, congratulations.”

z See our story this week on local vet Harry McKerchar’s family links with the original ‘Flying Scotsman’, Eric Liddell, on page 13.