Injured paratrooper Ben Parkinson 'proud' of Olympic torch relay


Seriously-injured paratrooper Ben Parkinson was greeted like a rock star today when he carried the Olympic Torch with thousands of people willing him on.

Every step Lance Bombardier Parkinson took with the flame in his home town of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was cheered by the crowds which lined the 300m route.

The soldier, who is considered the most seriously-wounded soldier to survive the war in Afghanistan, was mobbed as he turned up for his 300m leg with the flame near the town centre.

People clamoured to have their photos taken with the 27-year-old and shake his hand.

Police had to hold back the crowds as he got out of his wheelchair to take over the torch close to the town's war memorial.

Using his prosthetic legs, he carefully walked his section of the relay supported by his physio - Robert "Shep" Shepherd - and was urged on by people ten deep on either side of the road.

In some of the most emotional scenes of the torch relay so far, the para walked even further than the distance he had been practising as hundreds of people shouted his name.

L/Bdr Parkinson finished the stretch in about 26 minutes and, after he handed the torch over to the next runner, he was inundated by well-wishers again.

"I am so proud," he said.

"I didn't realise how much support I had. I was amazed."

L/Bdr Parkinson said the best part of the day was having 50 of his comrades from 7 Para Royal Horse Artillery line the route and cheer for him.

Asked about how he felt walking, he said: "I felt nothing. All these people helped me along."

His mother, Diane Dernie, said: "He knew he could do it. So many people told him he couldn't do it, but he was not having that.

"We knew he'd do it."

Mrs Dernie said: "Brilliant, brilliant day, we're so proud.

"This town has been such a wonderful place for Ben. I'm just so proud of everybody. Whatever he does, Doncaster's behind him."

The paratrooper lost both legs and suffered brain and back injuries in a bomb attack in 2006.

The soldiers from L/Bdr Parkinson's unit arrived from their base in Colchester, Essex, to cheers from the crowds.

Major Dave Walker said: "I think anyone here would have crawled over broken glass, quite frankly, to come and show Ben our support.

"Everyone in the regiment is tremendously proud of the progress that he's made against incredible adversity."

Sergeant Adam Colvin served with L/Bdr Parkinson for many years, including in Afghanistan.

He said: "We're just here to show our support to Ben - cheer him on and show how fantastically well he's done and is doing.

"We're very, very proud of him so we're here to give our big support to him and just let him know we'll always be there for him."

Ben's physio Mr Shepherd said: "It's absolutely amazing what he's achieved.

"We never doubted him, though.

"Nothing is too much for Ben. He is so determined. He is a para, after all.

"It's been a fabulous day and his mates from his regiment being there really made it for him."

Mr Shepherd said L/Bdr Parkinson was walking with crutches at the moment but was determined to dispense with them today.

He said: "He had one hand on the torch and I was his crutch at the other side. He was just brilliant."

The physio said walking with no legs above the knee used the same energy as someone with legs carrying three times their own body weight.

He said in L/Bdr Shepherd's case this was like carrying nearly 60 stones (381kg).

The relay arrived in Doncaster today after beginning the day in Sheffield and travelling through Rotherham.

It then left South Yorkshire and headed towards Scunthorpe and then Cleethorpes.


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