We need to help all our heroes

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

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We all have heroes, those that we look to for inspiration and enlightenment, people we would like to emulate.

For some it may be Maggie Thatcher or Tony Blair, for others Stephen Hawking or Bill Gates, it very much depends on the individual and the way you are wired.

On the football pitch I pretended to be Jairzinho, the legendary Brazilian winger, with the big hair, or the Dutch midfield maestro, Johan Cruyff, always trying to master that turn, without ever quite managing it!

But that was pure fantasy, whereas my hero worship of Geoffrey Boycott and Ian Botham, was, in my mind anyway, based on something altogether more tangible; a realistic dream (or so I thought) of playing for Yorkshire and England at cricket; those two players set an example that I wanted to follow, although blocking the bowling for half an hour on Bridlington beach, wasn’t always appreciated by your fellow holidaymakers!

Despite turning out for Goole town’s first team and Humberside, all by the age of 14, I never did manage to wear the white rose or step out onto the hallowed turf at Headingley.

But as a kid growing up you need idols that you can believe in, people who have come from similar backgrounds to yours and who make the impossible seem possible; Peterborough boys, Louis Smith and Nick Dempsey, are two such men.

Their Olympic success in the gymnastics and the windsurfing has taken years of hard work and countless hours of pain. But, hopefully it will spur on countless others to try their luck, buoyed by the fact that these two lads, grew up here, went to school here and trained here.

The question in the mind of every young, budding athlete, in this city right now, should be; if they can achieve such success, in the local gym, or on the water at 
Ferry Meadows, then why can’t I?

After their success in Rio there have been calls to honour both athletes with the freedom of the city and the Mayor of Peterborough, Councillor David Sanders, is adamant that their achievements should be recognised locally, in some way.

But if we are to celebrate our Olympic heroes let us also not forget that other band of heroes, those that chose to set an example in a very different way, by putting their lives on the line for our freedom.

Whilst the faces of our Olympians adorn the front and back pages of all of our newspapers, a new report from the armed forces charity, Help for Heroes, claims our veterans are being forgotten about.

Three out of four of us think that our soldiers deserve more support when they return from active service and judging by some of the harrowing stories I have heard on the Big Conversation, on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, from former service personnel, I think they may be right.

So yes, let’s celebrate our victorious Olympians but before we go erecting statues or giving them the right to graze sheep in Cathedral Square, let’s ensure our that other “local heroes” are taken care of too.

Why not put them at the top of the housing register, whatever their situation, give them medical help before anybody else and instead of relying on charities, funded by the public, to care for ex-service men and women, why not divert some of that sports lottery funding to ensure that they are properly looked after.

Maybe it is time for a tick box on the lottery ticket; tick here to help develop the Louis Smiths of the future and here to support those that have risked their lives to keep us all safe.

We need to help all of our heroes.