Emotional champagne send-off for Hucknall’s greatest athlete, Andy Turner

THE LAST HURDLE -- Andy Turner (left) beats London 2012 gold medallist Aries Merritt in his final race at Newcastle.
THE LAST HURDLE -- Andy Turner (left) beats London 2012 gold medallist Aries Merritt in his final race at Newcastle.

Olympic gold medallists helped give Hucknall’s greatest athlete, Andy Turner, a champagne send-off in the final race of his glittering career.

Springt hurdler Turner (33) was a guest runner in an emotion-filled climax at the Puma Great North City Games on Gateshead Quayside, which took place before the Great North Run last weekend.

Cuban Dayron Robles, who took gold at the Beijing Olympics of 2008, and American Aries Merritt, who won the 110m hurdles crown at London 2012, were among his opponents.

And long-jumper Greg Rutherford, who was one of Team GB’s gold medallists in London, led the champagne and ‘water-treatment’ celebrations after the race.

Not long after crossing the line, Turner received a drenching from Rutherford and several other members of the British team, most notably sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey!

“It wasn’t supposed to be quite like that,” said Rutherford. “The plan was to throw a bucket of water over Andy as he crossed the line and then spray the champagne over him. But I couldn’t get there in time!

“We’ve been planning his send-off for a few days, and we did think of throwing him in the Tyne until we were told how serious that would be!

“My plan now is to keep as sober as possible tonight and have Andy in a world of pain. We’re taking him out on the town to give him some punishment!”

Turner finished third in the four-runner race, behind Robles and fellow Brit Will Sharman. But he did at least beat world-record holder Merritt, and he admitted that he was overwhelmed by the tributes paid to him at the event.

“I can’t describe the emotions I was feeling leading up to the race,” he said.

“I thought I’d be fine, but then they played the music and showed the montages, and it got to me. I’m struggling for words right now.”

Turner, whose achievements include golds at the European Championships and Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the world championships, added: “I’ve taken more out of my career than I could have imagined. I’m not the most talented athlete. I’m just an average guy from Hucknall who grafted and got the best out of himself.

“I had a dream to make the Olympic Games, and I was lucky enough to do it three times.”

No sooner had Turner completed his weekend in the north-east than he was off to Ibiza for a well-earned holiday “with the lads”!