Stroke-hit athlete to carry torch

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A MAN with strong Hucknall links is to carry the Olympic torch on its relay run through Nottinghamshire.

Graham Astill (68) will cover part of Mansfield on Thursday June 28.

A life member of Notts Athletic Club, he was actively involved in the sport from the age of 13, specialising in long-distance races, until he suffered a stroke in 2002.

A member of Hucknall 50-Plus Club, Graham retains his fitness by attending walks organised by the group and by keep-fit classes and table-tennis sessions at Hucknall Leisure Centre on Linby Road. He also manages the occasional jog.

Graham worked in the finance departments at hospitals, latterly at King’s Mill, Sutton-in-Ashfield, until his retirement. He lives in Harlow Wood, which is just outside Mansfield.

His wife, Audrey, used to live on Belvoir Street, Hucknall, and the couple first met when both were employed by the former National Coal Board.

Graham previously lived at Rise Park and used to run all the way to Mansfield on what was known as a “notorious local route” as part of his training.

He and Audrey have two daughters and three grandchildren. Their daughters are Janet Young, who will be 40 in August and lives in Gloucestershire, and Catherine Flint (38), who is a Hucknall resident. It was Janet who nominated her father to carry the torch.

Graham said: “I realise what a great honour this is and I feel very proud. I want to dedicate my stretch of the relay to the many people who helped and encouraged me to develop my running potential when I was a youngster.

“I went on to run for Nottinghamshire and at national level. I did not make the Olympics but carrying the torch for London 2012 will be the next best thing.”

During more than 50 years with the county’s athletic club, Graham has served as a runner, coach and general helper. He has also been consistently keen to raise money for charity.

Graham is hoping to be able to buy the torch he carries — which costs £199 — as a souvenir of this very special experience.

John Hardy, secretary of the 50-Plus Club, said: “Graham has worked very hard to recover from his stroke, and carrying the torch will count as well-deserved recognition of his work for athletics. Everyone at the club is absolutely delighted and we are very proud of him.”

n OUR PHOTO shows Graham (right) receiving acknowledgment of his honour from John Hardy, outside Hucknall Leisure Centre, where the 50-Plus Club is based.