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The Independent Online

How sport helped Knight see daylight

Of the 1,300 youngsters taking part in the UK School Games in Coventry this weekend, no one has more reason to be thankful for sport than 17-year-old Darius Knight. At a time when the nation is in the fearful grip of gang culture, Knight's own salvation from a destiny of drugs and crime came in the form of a table-tennis bat. "God knows what would have happened to me if I had not not wandered into a youth club and got hooked on the sport," says the Battersea youngster who has become a Youth Olympics gold medallist after turning his back on the gang-ruled streets of south London where, in the past few months, two of his former friends have been murdered, one stabbed and the other shot. Several more, he tell us, are still running with the gangs he spurned. "But for sport that could be me. I'm lucky. I was a bit of a naughty boy but I found sport offered me a way out, kept me motivated, earns me a bit and has changed me as a person. It would have been easy to get involved in drugs and crime but now when I give money to my mum, she knows it is clean money."

Olympic rivals bring on British spinners

The UK School Games are a big success. And so they should be, with millions invested by the Government, loadsa Lottery money, sponsorship from Visa, plus the promotional expertise of Fast Track. The Olympics-style opening ceremony was even topped off with a professional ice show. Money well spent? Some schoolteachers don't think so, saying the event is not representative of either schools or the sports played in them, and lamenting the loss ofthe popular Panathlon, seemingly crushed for political expediency when clearly there should be room for both.

Ping-pong partners put accent on youth

While on the subject, and worthy as they are, calling these the UK "School" Games seems as much a misnomer as Gordon Brown's original spinning of them as the School Olympics. Quite a few of the strapping participants are no longer pupils. Take the above-mentioned Darius Knight (pictured) and his table-tennis partner Paul Drinkhall, the talented England No 1. They hung up their satchels two years ago and at 17 are professionals with clubs in France and Germany respectively. What's important, though, is that they spearhead a new impetus for their sport. Best pals, room-mates and doubles partners, they have played each other "40 or 50 times"and are headed that way again for today's final of what would be better termed "Youth" Games.

School Games a winner, but not teachers' pet

The role of Briton Jon Tibbs, whose PR prompting helped Vladimir Putin secure the 2014 Winter Olympics for Russia's Sochi, clearly impressed the Japanese. They've hired him to help promote their bid for the 2016 Summer Games after he turned down a lucrative offer from Middle East rivals Doha. Subsequently Doha enlisted another Brit, Mike Lee, who masterminded London's spin strategy, which means that he and Tibbs, who was a consultant for Paris, will renew their 2012 sparring. Tibbs is now in Osaka networking at the World Athletics Championships.

Why does the Establishment spurn Thompson's talents?

When Daley Thompson opened the UK School Games last week, the odd eyebrow was raised that he hadn't been enlisted to aid the British team in Osaka. Thompson (pictured), who says a once-mooted mentoring role "hasn't worked out", seems the Bobby Moore of athletics, his talent ignored by the Establishment.

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