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'Give our Ken the Olympic torch to carry'

Ken Lester

Ken Lester

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

THE town of Wallingford wants its own Olympic hero to carry the torch through the town when it arrives next month.

But despite repeated efforts from civic leaders, the man who was Britain’s youngest British Olympian Ken Lester has been told he will miss out on taking part in Wallingford’s Olympic Torch ceremony.

The torch will travel through Wallingford, Crowmarsh and Nettlebed on Tuesday, July 10.

Mr Lester, who took part in the Rome Olympics in 1960 as a rowing cox aged just 13, was nominated to carry the torch through his home town.

But he has been told by the organisers of the London Olympics that he will not be able to do so.

The 65-year-old from Wallingford, who is married to town mayor Ros Lester, said: “I was nominated by the town council and Wallingford Rowing Club but unfortunately I was not selected.

“Obviously I am disappointed, but I am very pleased that the Olympic Torch is coming to Wallingford.

“I want as many people as possible to come along and take part in the celebrations.

“It was an amazing experience taking part in the Olympics at such a young age and I inspired my brother Richard Lester to compete as a rower in the Montreal Olympics in 1976 when he was 27.”

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But town councillor Bernard Stone said: “If it had been left to local people then Ken would have carried the torch. We did all we could to promote him as a torchbearer and unfortunately that was not successful.

“It’s a massive boost that the torch is coming to a small town like Wallingford and I want everyone to support the runners carrying the torch through the town.”

Town clerk Andrew Rogers said: “It would have meant a great deal to Ken to be able to carry the torch and a great opportunity has been missed.

“As he has not been chosen to carry the torch we wondered if it would be possible for him to pass the torch from one runner to another, but apparently that can’t happen.”

Mr Lester, a former butcher who runs a storage company, was just 13 and 144 days old when he competed in the Rome Games of 1960 as a cox in the coxed pairs.

He and his oarsmen were not among the medals in the 1960 Games. They were third in their heats and failed to reach the finals.

He joined Wallingford Rowing Club when he was 11 and has been captain three times.

One of the three runners chosen to run through Wallingford is Private Patrick Burns from 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, who lost his right leg below the knee after an explosion in January last year.

The 25-year-old, from Bicester, thought he would never walk again, but is now training to run his entire section of the relay in Wallingford, with a special blade fitted to his leg.

The other torchbearers named for Wallingford are Dave Earl, a boxing coach from Banbury, and William Anderson, a voluntary youth worker from Swindon.

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