Peterborough’s Olympic and Paralympic stars expressed their delight at receiving the Freedom of the City during a glittering presentation evening last night.
Gymnast Louis Smith and rower James Fox were at the Town Hall to receive their honours following success at the Rio Games last summer.
They were joined by family and friends for the special occasion which saw them hosted in the Mayor’s Parlour before enjoying a three-course meal and receiving their awards.
Wheelchair basketball bronze medallist Lee Manning could not make the ceremony but he too was given the honour.
James, who won Paralympic gold in Brazil, said: “It’s great. This is the city I grew up in, I went to school here, I was born here and I learned to row here so the significance is massive.
“I love this kind of thing it’s awesome. It’s nice to bring my family and friends as well to celebrate with me.”
James, who was born in Longthorpe and attended Thorpe Primary and Jack Hunt School, is now hoping to kick on towards the Tokyo Games in 2020.
He added: “I had three or four weeks off after Rio which was lovely, a bit of a rejuvenation. Apart from that I’ve been getting into the training. You don’t enjoy success like this without the training.”
James’ mum Clare was delighted to see her son be honoured by his home city, coming just a few weeks after he met the Queen to receive his MBE.
She said: “It’s absolutely amazing, you can’t underestimate it. Single parents, a comprehensive school boy, and look what he’s achieved - it’s amazing.
“I’m very, very proud.”
Louis, who grew up in Eye, was also delighted to have been chosen for the award.
He said: “Being given Freedom of the City is a great honour. I’ve lived in Peterborough all my life and Peterborough has supported me throughout my career.
“It’s a very proud moment. There are these little highlights in my career, a few moments which kind of ground me, where I think about what I’ve done and the people who helped me get here.
“It’s a proud feeling, and this is one of those moments.
“I’m glad my mum is here to see this. We haven’t had the easiest upbringing, it’s been very tough at times. She’s been a single parent. Devoting her life to me to be able to pursue my career in sport must be quite scary for a parent because you never know what’s going to happen.
“But she’s put everything on the line, and for me to be here and to make her proud and get this award, it’s another moment I will cherish.”
Louis, who won his fourth Olympic medal in Rio with a silver in the pommel horse, wants to force his way into the GB team for the Commonwealth Games next year and then Tokyo.
And he has just come back from taking part in TV skiing show The Jump where he came second behind Made in Chelsea star Spencer Matthews.
Louis added: “The Jump was incredibly good fun. I’m a little bit sad that it’s all finished. I’m a little bit of an adventurous person and physical person - I like to push my body to the limit.
“That show was a dream. Ever since it came on three years ago I wanted to do it, and I got the chance to and I loved every second of it.”
The evening also saw former city councillors Charles Swift and Sheila Scott presented with scrolls bestowing them with the status of Honorary Alderman.
Mr Swift served as a councillor for 62 years after first being elected in 1954.
Former councillor Adrian Miners was also made an Honorary Alderman but could not attend the evening.
Councillor Peter Hiller, chair of Peterborough City Council’s honours selection panel, said: “Louis, James and Lee are three of the greatest athletes that Peterborough has ever produced and it can only be right that they are receiving the city’s highest honour.
“We are incredibly proud of their achievements and hope that there will be more medals to come in the future.
“Sheila and Adrian have been rewarded for their hard work and dedication as councillors - and Charles’s devotion to this city is simply unrivalled.”