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Olympic gold medallist brings Games to life for budding estate athletes

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Olympic gold medallist brings Games to life for budding estate athletes

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities

Olympic gold medallist brings Games to life for budding estate athletes Olympic gold medallist brings Games to life for budding estate athletes

The excitement of the Beijing Olympic Games will be keenly felt by youngsters on a West Midlands housing estate as they watch events unfold alongside a home-grown gold medallist.

Mark Lewis Francis held off the USA’s Maurice Green to take the GB team to gold in the 4X100m men’s relay race during the 2004 games in Athens, Greece. 

He is currently recovering from an operation on his Achilles heel and so is unable to defend his medal during the games, which open today, but will be rooting for the nine fellow Birchfield Harriers, including Kelly Sotherton, who have qualified.

And while his club mates fly the flag in China, Mark, aged 25, will spend time coaching children and teenagers on Beechdale in Walsall, close to Darlaston where he was raised.

Mark has teamed up with KABS Holistic Coaching Services Ltd and Beechdale Community Housing Association (BCHA) to share his skills and has already taken part in four athletics sessions with more planned.

The involvement of the sprinter has caused a stir on the estate, where keen parents have been calling organisers to enrol their children for training.

June Moriarty, chief executive of BCHA, said: “There is certainly a buzz about the Olympic Games and having Mark around has definitely heightened the excitement.  He brings the games to life for the estate’s young people and has also proved a talking point among the parents.”

Mark’s athletics sessions will form part of already popular sporting and dance activities which attract scores of children and teenagers, and are organised by KABS in partnership with BCHA.

Mark said: “It’s my way of giving something back and I am enjoying it.  The kids here seem great and I really hope I can teach them some of what I have learnt.  Being back in Walsall is also good as this is home.  I do get back regularly and am glad of that.”   

Kerryn Seale, head coach of KABS, said: “Mark is very pleased with the level of discipline the kids display and is enjoying working with them and sharing his skills and experience.  I am delighted that he has joined the KABS team and shown a keen interest in the community of Beechdale.”       
Mark’s achievement in Athens made him the youngest British athletics Olympic champion since 1936 and it led to him being awarded an MBE in the 2005 New Year Honour’s List.                   

The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games takes place today, Friday 8th August, and the closing event is on 24th August.            

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