Commonwealth Games 2014: Proud citizens join relay

John Smith, badminton player, will be carrying the Queen's Baton through city. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

John Smith, badminton player, will be carrying the Queen's Baton through city. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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AN 87-year-old badminton veteran, an ex-flyweight boxing champ and a super weightwatcher now half the woman she used to be are set to fly the flag for the Capital.

Crowds are expected to line the streets to cheer on the city’s team of proud Queen’s Baton bearers when the pre-Commonwealth Games relay comes here on June 14.

The relay will herald the start of the Queen’s Baton tour of Scotland ahead of Glasgow 2014, with each of the carriers nominated for their contributions to sport, community and youth projects.

Among them will be John Smith, of Findlay Grove, who was a tank transport driver with the Royal Army Service Corps during the Second World War and is “overwhelmed” to have been chosen.

At 87, he would be forgiven for starting to take things easy – but John refuses to slow down.

A volunteer guide at St Giles’ Cathedral, he also plays badminton, does aqua-aerobics and is part of a walking group.

More than 30 years ago he started a community badminton club that is still going strong today – as well as a youth badminton club.

He said: “You can sit and home and watch TV or do the garden, but there is more to life than that. I still play badminton. I get around the court but I’m not as fast as I used to be.”

He will carry the baton down the Royal Mile from Brodie’s Close to Parliament Square after being nominated by adoring granddaughter Lucy Walker, 25.

John, who used to work in the motor industry, said: “She thinks her grandfather is wonderful, but this was a complete surprise.

“I am really over the moon. This is such an honour. My friends and family are going to come and see me – I still can’t believe it. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Other baton bearers along the route will be Christina Thomson, David Cunningham, George Ross, Joanne McCutcheon, Lynne McNicoll, Jonathon Fotheringham, Frances Smith, and Sharon Parkin.

Also among the 100-plus baton carriers will be Graham Moodie, an ex-Scotland and Great Britain hockey player with one Olympic and two Commonwealth Games under his belt.

He retired as Scotland captain earlier this year to take up the post of Scotland men’s under 21 coach and head of hockey at Edinburgh University.

Boxing champ is a knockout

A FORMER British flyweight boxing champion, George Ross has helped countless youngsters turn their lives around.

The 68-year-old – who will carry the baton from the Lawnmarket to the top of the Royal Mile – has been a PE teacher, a coordinator for The Prince’s Trust and ran a boxing club in Aberdeenshire.

George, from Colinton, used outdoor challenges to help children excluded from mainstream education to grow in confidence.

He said: “I helped build them into well-rounded youths and they achieved things they didn’t think possible.”

Super slimmer Sharon shed 10 stone

SHARON Parkin lost half her body weight while battling depression.

The determined 45-year-old weighed more than 20 stone, but in less than five years managed to lose ten stone after joining a running club.

The pensions administrator, who has now run nine half-marathons and two marathons, took up the sport because she thought losing weight might ease the chronic pain in her hips.

She now works to inspire other people for JogScotland, taking newcomers under her wing and offering them encouragement.

Sharon has an online support group, Run for Run, which boasts more than 1000 members, inspiring people to get active.

She said: “People see what I have done and think ‘Maybe I could do it too’. Sometimes they just need a bit of support. I tell them that I know you find it hard but they can do it.”

Sharon, who will begin her leg of the relay close to the Royal Commonwealth Pool, added: “I like the idea of a message being passed from hand to hand all around the world.”

She has taken part in the Edinburgh Marathon, the Loch Ness Marathon and the 5K National Lottery Anniversary Run.