Inside Lines: Unselfish sister acts worthy of receiving their academy awards
Sunday 29 May 2011
Seb Coe calls her "relentless", one of the most driven women he has encountered in sport. And he terms her project "sensational".
Outside of athletics aficionados, few may know of Connie Henry, a Commonwealth Games triple jump bronze medallist in 1998. She then immersed herself in sports website broadcasting, giving this up three years ago to return to her alma mater in Willesden, north London, to run her own athletics academy for local youngsters in one of the city's most deprived areas.
Last week all the hard work came to fruition when the academy was recognised by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation as a worthy cause for their support. Hence the presence of Locog chief Lord Coe and, among other luminaries, Michael Johnson and Sir Steve Redgrave to cement the partnership at the packed Willesden Sports Centre.
As Coe said: "This is the kind of thing that will help us achieve an Olympic legacy of getting more young people involved in sport."
Olympic bronze medal hurdler Natasha Danvers, an academy trustee, says: "It is easy in athletics to walk away and give nothing back. Connie hasn't done that. She has offered kids the support that changes lives."
What makes Henry, 39, and her academy, so special is that the kids, the majority from ethnic minorities, are offered studying, tutoring support and personal mentoring, skills she acquired in her time as a teacher. She admits it is unlikely that many of the 500 enrolled at the academy will become Olympians but through sport they will be inspired to understand what it takes to lead a fulfilling life.
"If the academy creates Olympic athletes along the way, then it is a valuable by-product of what the project is trying to achieve," she says.
Another uplifting example, like that of fellow sporting sister Tessa Sanderson (who defied council cuts to resurrect her sports academy in Newham) of how ex-athletes can put their experience to practical use; a reminder that sport is not completely dominated by bed-hopping super-injunction superstars.
Ivor's order of the Bath
Bobby Moore has one, so has Sir Alf Ramsey, Brian Clough, Bill Shankly and Sir Bobby Robson. And, er, Michael Jackson too. A statue that is.
So Britain's oldest surviving international, 94-year-old Ivor Powell MBE, is in good company. The former Welsh wing half who retired last year after 37 years coaching Team Bath, now has his own statuette cast in bronze by local sculptor Alan Dun.
Ivor, best man at Sir Stanley Matthews' wedding, still helps out with the University's football programme. Fittingly he has requested the statuette be presented annually as an award for excellence in coaching.
Sons and glovers
Britain's premier promoter Frank Warren will be taking a back seat at his next two tournaments in July, handing over to two of his public school-educated sons Francis and George, both in their 20s. "It's time they learned the ropes," he says.
Rival Barry Hearn has also decided on a dynasty, dad's lad Eddie, 31, taking charge of the Matchroom boxing division. Hearn Jnr's latest big-name signing is Carl Froch, who defends his WBC super-middleweight title in Atlantic City on Saturday. A welcome coup after his rather less auspicious exhumation of one Audley Harrison.
Throwing in the towel
It may not have been the happiest night at the O2 for the Warren organisation, with the defeat of marquee man James DeGale, but at least a sense of humour prevailed. A German building company, one of the show's sponsors, requested some ringside seats be reserved. Warren's people obliged, placing towels over them. Luckily the Germans did see the joke.
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