We need to help all our he­roes

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Paul Stainton -

We all have he­roes, those that we look to for in­spi­ra­tion and en­light­en­ment, peo­ple we would like to em­u­late.

For some it may be Mag­gie Thatcher or Tony Blair, for oth­ers Stephen Hawk­ing or Bill Gates, it very much de­pends on the in­di­vid­ual and the way you are wired.

On the football pitch I pre­tended to be Jairz­inho, the leg­endary Brazil­ian winger, with the big hair, or the Dutch mid­field mae­stro, Jo­han Cruyff, al­ways try­ing to master that turn, with­out ever quite man­ag­ing it!

But that was pure fan­tasy, whereas my hero wor­ship of Ge­of­frey Boy­cott and Ian Botham, was, in my mind any­way, based on some­thing al­to­gether more tan­gi­ble; a re­al­is­tic dream (or so I thought) of play­ing for York­shire and Eng­land at cricket; those two play­ers set an ex­am­ple that I wanted to fol­low, although block­ing the bowl­ing for half an hour on Bridling­ton beach, wasn’t al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated by your fel­low hol­i­day­mak­ers!

De­spite turn­ing out for Goole town’s first team and Hum­ber­side, all by the age of 14, I never did man­age to wear the white rose or step out onto the hal­lowed turf at Head­in­g­ley.

But as a kid grow­ing up you need idols that you can believe in, peo­ple who have come from sim­i­lar back­grounds to yours and who make the im­pos­si­ble seem pos­si­ble; Peter­bor­ough boys, Louis Smith and Nick Dempsey, are two such men.

Their Olympic suc­cess in the gym­nas­tics and the wind­surf­ing has taken years of hard work and count­less hours of pain. But, hope­fully it will spur on count­less oth­ers to try their luck, buoyed by the fact that these two lads, grew up here, went to school here and trained here.

The ques­tion in the mind of ev­ery young, bud­ding ath­lete, in this city right now, should be; if they can achieve such suc­cess, in the lo­cal gym, or on the wa­ter at Ferry Mead­ows, then why can’t I?

Af­ter their suc­cess in Rio there have been calls to hon­our both ath­letes with the free­dom of the city and the Mayor of Peter­bor­ough, Coun­cil­lor David San­ders, is adamant that their achieve­ments should be recog­nised lo­cally, in some way.

But if we are to cel­e­brate our Olympic he­roes let us also not for­get that other band of he­roes, those that chose to set an ex­am­ple in a very dif­fer­ent way, by putting their lives on the line for our free­dom.

Whilst the faces of our Olympians adorn the front and back pages of all of our news­pa­pers, a new re­port from the armed forces char­ity, Help for He­roes, claims our vet­er­ans are be­ing for­got­ten about.

Three out of four of us think that our sol­diers de­serve more sup­port when they re­turn from ac­tive ser­vice and judg­ing by some of the har­row­ing sto­ries I have heard on the Big Con­ver­sa­tion, on BBC Ra­dio Cam­bridgeshire, from for­mer ser­vice per­son­nel, I think they may be right.

So yes, let’s cel­e­brate our vic­to­ri­ous Olympians but be­fore we go erect­ing stat­ues or giv­ing them the right to graze sheep in Cathe­dral Square, let’s en­sure our that other “lo­cal he­roes” are taken care of too.

Why not put them at the top of the hous­ing reg­is­ter, what­ever their sit­u­a­tion, give them med­i­cal help be­fore any­body else and in­stead of re­ly­ing on char­i­ties, funded by the pub­lic, to care for exser­vice men and women, why not di­vert some of that sports lot­tery fund­ing to en­sure that they are prop­erly looked af­ter.

Maybe it is time for a tick box on the lot­tery ticket; tick here to help de­velop the Louis Smiths of the fu­ture and here to sup­port those that have risked their lives to keep us all safe.

We need to help all of our he­roes.

BBC Ra­dio Cam­bridgeshire’s Paul Stain­ton writes for the Peter­bor­ough Tele­graph

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