Still blaz­ing a trail af­ter five decades

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By ADAM UREN adam.uren@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk @ETADAMU

IT may be long in the tooth as it cel­e­brates its birth­day, but at 50 years old a city ath­let­ics track is look­ing bet­ter than ever.

While all the talk this year will be of the legacy left be­hind af­ter the London 2012 Games - ath­letes, chil­dren and dig­ni­taries came to­gether yes­ter­day to ap­pre­ci­ate the legacy en­joyed by the cre­ation of the Em­bank­ment Ath­let­ics Track in 1962.

Pupils from Ful­bridge Pri­mary School were in­vited to com­pete in a se­lec­tion of ath­let­ics events at the be­hest of Coun­cil­lor Charles Swift, who was mayor when the track orig­i­nally opened some 50 years ago.

He said: “The open­ing in 1962 was a trail-blaz­ing event as no other be­spoke ath­let­ics fa­cil­ity ex­isted in this area at that time.

“I was priv­i­leged to be here 50 years ago and it feels so much bet­ter stand­ing here to­day and hav­ing these in­cred­i­ble fa­cil­i­ties which are so rich in his­tory.”

A lot has changed at the track since 1962, the most im­por­tant ad­vance­ment be­ing the re­place­ment of the cin­der ash track with a syn­thetic one in 1987.

More re­cently, the old pav­il­ion was re­placed in 2004 and in the last 18 months has been ex­tended to pro­vide space for other sports and pro­grammes, such as ta­ble ten­nis, hand-cy­cling and stroke re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

The track is now run by cul­ture and leisure trust Vi­vac­ity hav­ing been handed over by Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil in 2010, but the coun­cil has re-af­firmed its com­mit­ment to the track by pledg­ing £500,000 to re-sur­face the run­ning track which has be­come worn over time.

The cen­tral lo­ca­tion of the track makes it pop­u­lar with run­ners across the city, with Peter­bor­ough Ath­let­ics Club (PAC) and Nene Val­ley Har­ri­ers the main clubs to make reg­u­lar use of the fa­cil­i­ties.

PAC coaches Roy Thick­penny and Mau­reen Torr say the in­tro­duc­tion of the syn­thetic track in 1987 has im­proved the de­vel­op­ment of lo­cal ath­letes, with PAC alumni such as Kelly Sother­ton and Louise Hazel go­ing on to in­ter­na­tional suc­cess.

John Torr, who has been as­so­ci­ated with the club for 35 years and is now the starter, said: “When I first ran here with the Wat­ford Har­ri­ers this was just a dirt track.

“But since it be­came an all-weather track we’ve made more in­ter­na­tion­als, sim­ply be­cause it gives you more of an op­por­tu­nity to de­velop young ath­letes.”

Mr Torr said there has been greater in­ter­est shown in track and field events in re­cent months as Olympic fever grows - and he ex­pects it to ex­plode once the games get un­der­way this sum­mer.

Stu­dents from Ful­bridge School were all given medals for tak­ing part in the events at the track, with head­teacher Iain Er­sk­ine, him­self a for­mer PAC ath­lete, re-it­er­at­ing how im­por­tant sport is to young peo­ple.

He said: “As well as pro­vid­ing the statu­tory PE cur­ricu­lum, we do a lot of clubs out­side of that for any­thing from bas­ket­ball to hockey, to foot­ball and net­ball.

“I’m a for­mer sec­ondary PE teacher so I think pro­vid­ing such op­por­tu­ni­ties in school is very im­por­tant.”

Among the dig­ni­taries mark­ing the 50th birth­day of the Em­bank­ment was Mayor of Peter­bor­ough Coun­cil­lor Paula Thacker, coun­cil leader Marco Cer­este and Vi­vac­ity chief ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Tighe.

Mr Tighe said: “Sport over the next six months will be very much in the fore­front of the public’s mind with the Olympics and Par­a­lympic Games start­ing in July, so it is timely that the an­niver­sary of this great fa­cil­ity has fallen within the Olympic year.”

ON TRACK: Ful­bridge Pri­mary School pupils take part in an event to cel­e­brate the 50th birth­day of the Em­bank­ment Ath­let­ics Track. METP-11-05-12DL050 Pic­tures: DAVID LOWN­DES

FLY­ING THE FLAG: Coun­cil leader Marco Cer­este, Mayor Cllr Paula Thacker, Cllr Charles Swift, Kevin Tighe and pupil Demi New. METP-11-05-12DL038

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