DOZENS of sports enthusiasts in North Tyneside are getting set to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to carry the Olympic flame towards its destination after it arrived in the UK on Friday.
The torch was brought to Britain from Athens in Greece by footballer David Beckham, the Princess Royal, Lord Coe, chairman of the 2012 Olympics organising committee, and London mayor Boris Johnson.
It was greeted by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg after its arrival at a Royal Navy base near Helston in Cornwall and has now begun its 70-day tour of more than 1,000 villages, towns and cities throughout the UK on its journey to the Olympic Stadium in London.
The borough’s torchbearers, like the rest of the 8,000 taking on the role nationwide, include some who have overcome serious illnesses and others picked for service to their communities.
They will carry the torch through the borough on Friday, June 15.
Among those taking part will be Julie O’Malley, a science teacher at Southlands School in North Shields.
Julie, of North Shields, will carry the flame through Cullercoats.
The 50-year-old has taught at the Beach Road special school for 23 years.
She said: “I saw the application form online, and my husband Bruce nominated me.
“I did not expect to get chosen, so I was really surprised. I was chuffed to bits.
“The children are really enjoying the Olympic year and taking part in lots of sports activities such as basketball, swimming and football tournaments.”
Charlotte Stevenson-Clements, 14, will carry the flame through Hexham after being nominated by her boyfriend Leon Goldwater for being an inspiration to others.
The 14-year-old was diagnosed with depression almost three years ago after being bullied at a former school.
Charlotte is now making good progress at Newcastle’s Gosforth Academy and did well in her GCSEs, getting good grades including an A in maths.
She is also a lance-corporal for the Northumbria Army Cadet Force in Gosforth.
Charlotte, of Killingworth, said: “I’m feeling really nervous about carrying the torch but really excited at the same time as I’m making history.
“It really makes me feel special as my chances were one in 14, and now I’m doing it.”
Milly Harrison, of North Shields, will be one of the youngest torchbearers in the borough.
The 12-year-old, a pupil at the town’s St Thomas More High School, will carry the torch through Hartford.
Teacher Jayne Flynn nominated Milly, saying: “As well as being very talented, she is a lovely girl, and she follows the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect.
“On top of that, she is an outstanding performer.”
Milly has been a member of Whitley Bay’s Gillian Quinn School of Theatre Dance for six years and will be taking part in the school’s European dance tour in July.
She said: “I’m a bit nervous but really happy.”
North Shields Hockey Club founder Mick Riding will carry the torch through Warkworth.
The father of four, of West Moor, was nominated by for his work at the club over the years.
The 55-year-old IT project manager said: “The whole thing will be fantastic. This is going to be bigger than the 1966 World Cup.”
Fundraiser Nadine Hollingsworth, of Monkseaton, will be carrying the torch through North Shields.
She was nominated in recognition of the £175,000 she and husband Ivan have raised for the children’s heart unit fund at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital over the last three years.
“It’s a bit overwhelming,” said the 35-year-old.
Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade captain Peter Lilley, of Cullercoats, will carry the flame through North Shields.
The 24-year-old was nominated for his work with the brigade over the last 10 years.
“It’s a great honour, and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Jordan McCartney, 17, will be carrying the torch through his home town of Whitley Bay after being nominated for his work with Blyth Lifeguard and Swimming Club.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said the Whitley Bay High School pupil.m
Others taking part in the relay include:
n Mark Strasshine, 13, of North Shields, through Choppington.
n John Fletcher, 46, of Whitley Bay, through Cullercoats.
Simon Laing, 27, of Whitley Bay, through Howdon.
n Ryan Elliott, 12, of Whitley Bay, through Newcastle.
n Katie Willis, 24, of Whitley Bay, through North Shields
n Sarah Bennett, 27, of North Shields, through her home town.
n Neil Weir, 31, of Wallsend, through Tynemouth.
n Anne Perrin, 56, of Holywell, through Whitley Bay.
n Michelle Armstrong, 46, of Whitley Bay, through her home town.
n Ged Hoburn, 51, of Whitley Bay, through Whitburn.
n Ethan Walton, 12, of Whitley Bay, through Sunderland.
The torch will be carried through Whitley Bay, Cullercoats, Tynemouth, North Shields, Howdon and Wallsend on June 15 before heading west to Newcastle.