Give Peterborough’s Olympic stars the Freedom of the City!
That is the call from the Mayor of Peterborough who is backing gymnast Louis Smith and windsurfer Nick Dempsey to receive the prestigious accolade.
Councillor David Sanders will look to host both silver medallists at a reception at the Mayor’s Parlour in the Town Hall, and he believes they deserve plenty of attention for their achievements in Rio.
He said: “In Peterborough we’ve not had a glut of people going to the Olympics or a glut of celebrities, and four years of hard work goes into that medal. We can’t appreciate what goes into it.
“Let’s big them up, they have a lot to be proud of. And it’s not like it’s their first time, they both have a history at the Olympics.”
Cllr Sanders has written to Cllr Peter Hiller, chairman of the council’s honours panel, to nominate Louis, from Eye, as a Freeman of the City.
Describing him as an inspiration, he said: “He is young and, if made a Freeman, he would have the rest of his life enjoying the honour.”
Cllr Sanders said he will also support former Orton Longueville School pupil Nick getting the accolade if nominated. Cllr Hiller said the honours panel will meet at the end of September to discuss Louis’ nomination.
Police officer Josh Mills (26) from Dogsthorpe has known Louis since the age of 12 when they met at Arthur Mellows Village College, while Louis was the usher at Josh’s wedding last year.
Josh watched Louis win silver in the pommel horse final on Sunday at a JD Wetherspoon in Milton Keynes where he had been snowboarding with friends. He said: “I was very nervous and biting my nails. There were a few of us that breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’m happy for him. He’s worked really hard to get back in the team.”
Josh highlighted Louis’ dedication at school, saying: “He was training six days a week most of the time. He had to miss out on a lot,” he said.
“He is still the same person. At school he was someone that pretty much everyone liked.”
Josh, who could not help but notice “that ridiculous hairdo” when he enjoyed a barbecue with Louis ahead of his flight to Rio, added: “The Queen’s given him an MBE, why can’t we give him Freedom of the City? He is one of the most famous people to come from the city.”
Louis’ coach Paul Hall, from Huntingdon Gymnastics Club, also paid tribute to Louis who had fallen off the pommel horse in the team final a week earlier. He said: “I’m proud of the guy and very relieved.
“He did a fantastic job under immense pressure.
“He is a Peterborough lad and talks very highly of the city. Of course he should be recognised for his endeavours.”
After his silver and bronze at London 2012, following a bronze at Beijing 2008, Louis was driven through the city on board an open-top bus in front of a vast crowd.
Asked if there would be a repeat this time, a Peterborough City Council spokesperson said: “We will be looking at a way we can congratulate Louis and any other medallist from Peterborough.”
Nick is now the most decorated men’s Olympic windsurfer with his silver in the Olympic RS:X. He had also won a silver at London 2012 and a bronze at Athens 2004.
Speaking previously to the Peterborough Telegraph Nick, who now lives in Weymouth, revealed it had not been plain sailing learning to windsurf at Ferry Meadows.
He said: “I think the men in the rescue boat used to get fed up having to keep coming out and dragging me back in.
“They would tell me the conditions weren’t safe for me and that I should stay on land, but as soon as they had turned their backs I would be straight back out on the water.”
‘I was so scared for Louis’ - Mum
The mother of Louis Smith said watching her son compete in the pommel horse final at the Rio Olympics last Sunday evening was a nerve-wracking experience.
Elaine Petch told Mail Online: “I was so nervous. I didn’t want him to fall, it was so nerve-racking.
“I held my friend’s hand and didn’t really want to look. But I had to.
“I was so scared for him but he was fantastic.”
Former Strictly Come Dancing winner Louis has also hinted he may appear on the next series of I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! where contestants camp out in the Australian jungle.