Larne duo prepare to blaze a trail with Olympic torch

A LARNE woman has spoken of her pride at being selected to carry the Olympic flame through the borough next week.

Dawn Aston, a renowned artist and designer, was one of just two local residents chosen to be torchbearers when the flame makes its way through Larne and up the coast on Sunday, June 3, as part of its 70-day relay around the UK ahead of the London 2012 Games.

The 47-year-old mother-of-three was nominated for the prestigious honour by a school girl from north Belfast, after she was involved in a cross-community art and landscaping project.

The youngster was so impressed by Dawn’s work that she submitted a heart-warming nomination to the London Organising Commmittee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) telling them why she felt Dawn was worthy to be one of the 8000 torchbearers throughout the UK.

The touching entry read: “I think Dawn should carry the torch because she does gardening around the county and she re-planted the water works with my school. Dawn is kind, funny and helpful and made me remember how much I love gardening.

“I think Dawn should carry the Olympic Flame because of all the hard work she does and the gardening she can do is amazing.”

Dawn told the Times that she was delighted to be part of the historic event and was looking forward to representing Larne.

“It is a real privilege to have been nominated and selected for such a momentous occasion,” she added.

“It is great for the borough that the torch will be passing through, and hopefully loads of people come out to cheer us on and help make it a really special day.”

Joining Dawn in the relay will be Larne’s very own Paralympic=winning medallist Diane McMillan, who will be one of the torchbearers carrying the flame through Carnlough.

Diane, a former pupil of Larne and Inver Primary School and Larne Grammar School, began training with Larne Swimming Club at the tender age of four, despite having a congenital abnormality of the lower leg.

At the age of 11, she and her family made the difficult decision to allow medics to amputate the lower part of her leg to allow for a better standard of mobility by means of a prosthetic leg.

At 13 years of age she was talent-spotted by the British Amputee Sports Association and invited to train and compete against others with similar disabilities.

Diane’s ability stood out and she was selected to represent Great Britain in the 1988 Seoul Paralympics, where she exceeded expectations and became the first athlete from Northern Ireland to bring home a Paralympics medal, scooping two gold, one silver and two bronze.

Success continued in 1989, when she won four gold medals at the World Championship Games in Florida, and shortly after she had triple-gold success at the US Amputee Games in New York. That year, she also tasted success in the European Championship in Holland.

The list of successes went on and in 1992 she became a double Olympian, competing in the Barcelona Games, this time returning home with a bronze medal.

Retirement from Elite Performance coincided with the call of university for this talented athlete, who graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University in public relations before attending Strathclyde University for a PGCE in primary school teaching.

Residents will be able to cheer Dawn, Diane and the other torchbearers on at various points along the route.

The torch is expected to arrive in Glynn at about 12.30pm, before being carried through Larne along Bank Road, Circular Road, and Glenarm Road, finishing at Chaine Memorial Park at about 1pm.

From there, it will travel up the Coast Road though Drains Bay (1.15pm), Ballygally (2.13pm), Glenarm (2.34pm), before arriving in Carnlough at 2.50pm.

After leaving the village, the flame will continue through Glenariff, Cushendall, Ballycastle and Dervock, before making an overnight stop at Portrush.

An average of 115 torchbearers a day will carry the Olympic flame during its 8,000-mile journey around the UK before it arrives at the Olympic Stadium on July 27 for the lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony, signifying the official start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The full route of the Olympic torch relay can be viewed at www.london2012.com/olympictorchrelay