london 2012

ECSTATIC Hannah Russell was in Paralympic paradise this week after returning home with three London 2012 medals.

The Ottershaw teenager, who was fast-tracked into the squad by selectors after rising to prominence in a breakthrough year, was the first ParalympicsGB swimmer to bag two medals in the Aquatics Centre.

She followed up a debut Games silver in the S12 400m freestyle with bronze in the 100m butterfly – setting a new British record in the process. And visually-impaired Hannah, 16, completed her haul with a bronze in the 100m backstroke.

HAUL - Hannah and her three Paralympic medals

HAUL – Hannah and her three Paralympic medals

After powering her way to a hat-trick of podium finishes in what will go down as the greatest Paralympic Games of all time, the former Gordon’s schoolgirl revealed the biggest rush came from knowing she had helped make history.

She said: “I came to the Paralympic Games as a young athlete just trying to enjoy the experience – to come away with three medals is a bonus.

“London 2012 was a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to compete in a home Games. It won’t come around again for a long time now and I’m delighted to say that I was part of a very talented GB team.”

Hannah made some serious waves at London 2012 and looks to have nailed down a place in the squad for years to come.

Her heroic performance in the 400m freestyle – in which she finished seven-tenths of a second behind Russian winner Oxana Savchenko – signalled her arrival at the Games.

But heading into the heats, modest Hannah was only focused on her own performance.

She said: “I just wanted to go into the heats and give it my all. I knew that if I got to the final I’d have another chance.

“Coming away with a three-second personal best gave me great confidence for the final.”

And she thanked the tremendous support of her screaming fans for helping her secure a stunning silver.

Hannah added: “I remember in the last leg hearing the crowd rise up and they really did bring me in at the end – the noise was unbelievable.

“I didn’t leave anything in the pool – I gave it everything.”

“My very first event was definitely my highlight.

“Winning my first medal and being on the podium in front of everyone after the 400m freestyle was truly amazing.”

But her amazing rollercoaster Paralympic bow did not end there.

Back-to-back bronze medals followed and there was a surprise or two for Hannah when she finally returned to her home in Brox Road.

“I tried to stay off Twitter, Facebook and my phone for the duration of the Games, but they’ve been going mad since I picked them back up. The support has been amazing from and I’m so grateful.”

Beaming dad Carson, who says the best is yet to come from his talented daughter, said he could not be happier for Hannah.

He added: “The family are so proud of Hannah and all she has achieved.

“It’s been a long journey and everyone has made sacrifices – no one more so than Hannah and we are delighted.

“It was a bit of a whirlwind that has come from us at all angles.

“Hannah has been featured on Sky, BBC, ITV and Channel 4, as well as in the national and local press.

“But she hasn’t peaked yet, the plan is to be challenging for golds in Rio. London 2012 was never about medals, it was about gaining experience and celebrating all her hard work.”

HEROES – fans in Ripley show their support as Team GB manoeuvre their way through the scenic village as Olympic fever grips the nation

HEROES – fans in Ripley show their support as Team GB manoeuvre their way through the scenic village as Olympic fever grips the nation

A NATION swelled with pride as the Olympic Games burst into life over the weekend, and Woking was at the emotional heart of it.

Thousands lined the streets as the men’s and women’s road races thundered through the borough.

West Byfleet LI:VE was teeming with Union flags as Olympic fever took a firm grip on the village.

Red, white and blue clad fans roared on Team GB’s world champion Mark Cavendish and Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins, only for their  medal hopes to fade on Saturday.

To have something so special come through our tiny community is truly remarkable and something we should all cherish

But they were rewarded on Sunday when Lizzie Armitstead took silver in the women’s race to claim our first medal of the Games.

Robyn Dean, 18, and Jordon Styles, 19, from Georgelands, Ripley, (right) got into the Olympic spirit by painting their faces with Union flags before watching the race in White Rose Lane. Robyn said: “I got a picture of Mark Cavendish, I’m so proud. It’s nice to see the village coming together.”

Woking mayor Michael Smith, who cycled to Saturday’s festivities at West  Byfleet recreation ground, said residents had done the borough proud with their incredible show of support.

He added: “We stood on Parvis Road and it was great to be involved in a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“The fans and crowd responded incredibly to the road race and it was an amazing coming together.

“It’s unfortunate we missed out in the men’s race but it was a huge bonus to get silver in the women’s event.”

There was an overwhelming sense of pride as pictures of our area’s leafy streets were beamed across the world.

James White, 87, of West Byfleet said: “To have something so special come through our tiny community is truly remarkable and something we should all cherish. I won’t see London host the Olympics again in my lifetime so this is something to savour.”

More than a million fans lined the course for the men’s and women’s race which whizzed by Weybridge, whooshed through West Byfleet, powered on past Pyrford and ripped through Ripley en route to the gruelling climbs of Box Hill before returning to London and the finish line on the Mall.

Anita and Ray French, Sue Gibbs and her daughters Jess and Ellie and their pal Natasha Newson had ringside seats outside Hedgecroft Cottages in Newark Lane, Ripley.

Natasha said: “It was exciting and so fast.” Sue added: “You could feel the breeze coming off them.”

Dutchmen Marcel Elzenaar, Meino Meines, Ed Noorman and Gerard Meines, from Assen, all took part in an impromptu Mexican wave with other spectators in Ripley once the athletes had passed.

Gerard said the village and crowds had generated a ‘very nice atmosphere’.

Little Sam Perei, of Wentworth Close, spent two days with a friend making an Olympic banner to spur on Team GB. He watched the race with his mum Lottie, his brother Harry and their pet dog Amber. Sam said: “I worked very hard on the sign.”

Residents at Boltons Close in Pyrford marked the event with a party.

Despite the huge number of people out celebrating in the streets, Surrey Police have reported just two arrests.

Chief superintendent Gavin Stephens said: “There were only two event-related arrests in Surrey over the whole weekend and this is testament to the fantastic spirit of the thousands of people who came out to cheer on the cyclists.”

DABB HAND – Chris Dabbs shows off his Olympic Torch with wife Helen, son George and mum Brenda

DABB HAND – Chris Dabbs shows off his Olympic Torch with wife Helen, son George and mum Brenda

MARK CAVENDISH and Bradley Wiggins may have electrified the ecstatic crowds as they tore through West Byfleet, Pyrford and Ripley but it was the generosity of one local man that truly encapsulated the spirit of the Olympic Games.

Chris Dabbs, 49, who was born and raised in Send Marsh,  was one of the privileged few to take part in the prestigious Olympic torch relay when he carried the famous flame through Market Harborough in Leicestershire last month.

And in a selfless bid to share the glory and prestige with as many fans as possible, Chris brought his precious piece of memorabilia to the road race on Saturday.

The golden torch sparked a photo frenzy, with generations young and old flocking to grab a snap with the iconic torch.

He is always sharing and is always thinking of others.

Chris said: “I wanted to share my experience with everyone at the race.

“We risked being there all afternoon but I bought it out to share the joy and to see people smile is well worth it.”

Chris, who is in a wheelchair after breaking his back testing motorcycles in 1993, was nominted to carry the flame by his
employers, the Bauer group after 22 years of dedicated service.

Since his accident, he has played, coached and has been chairman of Northamptonshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club for eight years.

He also sails with Northampton Sailability, and is a huge fan of scuba diving and races karts.

In his latest project, he has got back into the saddle of a motorbike thanks to The Bike Experience.

His excellent attitude and the way he has coped with his accident are just two of the reasons why wife Helen believes he was nominated by his employers.

She said: “Chris has been travelling to schools, allowing children to get a real good look at the ­Olympic torch.

“He is always sharing and is always thinking of others. He’s also encouraging as many people as possible to back Rachel Morris in the Paralympic Games.”

Rachel is a close friend of Chris and is in a race to be fit to defend her title after securing hand-cycling gold in Beijing four years ago.

She was injured following a collision with a car during a time trial in Hampshire in July.

Her condition, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, involves a malfunction of the nervous system and sensory abnormalities, meaning she takes longer to recover from injury.

The accident has put her Paralympic hopes in jeopardy, but Chris was determined to boost her spirits and drum up support for the 33 year old.

Raving about her previous success, Chris remained confident Rachel would make a full recovery.

He said: “She is really one to watch, she’s a great girl and a top athlete. Everyone needs to get behind her and the rest of Team GB.”

And speaking on the historic moment the Olympic Games passed within a mile of his childhood home, Chris failed to disguise his pride.

He added: “It’s fantastic to see this part of the world used in an Olympic cycle course.

“The opening ceremony was truly spectacular and eccentrically British as well.

“I loved the music choice all the way through, and it’s fantastic that we all get to share it.”

CHEER - Paralympian gold medallist Helen Hilderley celebrates London 2012WOKING was alive with the sound of bells on Friday to signal the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

At exactly 8.12am, crowds in the town centre joined hundred of thousands of bell ringers across the country as Great Britain ushered in the world’s most prestigious sporting event.

Traditional brass bells, bicycle bells, cow bells, delicate glass bells and even mobile phone ring tones were used to announce the start of the Olympic Games in the capital.

Eagle Radio’s Love Crew led the countdown before mayor Michael Smith and mayoress Anne Murray joined Woking in three minutes of joyous bell ringing.

Former track and road cyclist, Tony Doyle stood on the balcony overlooking the square alongside the councillors to start the event.

Helen Hilderley (above), who competed in the 1984 Paralympics in New York, and won a gold medal in archery, silver in javelin and bronze in club, discus and shotput took part in the musical extravaganza.

Watch the action here: