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Eastenders’ Billy Mitchell Carried Olympic Torch- Yet Young Wheelchair Athlete Will Miss Out

July 24, 2012

This is an unpleasant surprise, considering that just last night, half my Twitter friends, my mum and I saw the torch being carried by a fictional character from Eastenders!

While others flock to watch the Olympic torch being carried through Kingston upon Thames this morning, the 15-year-old local wheelchair athlete, Jack Binstead, is flying out of the country with his family to avoid being reminded of what might have been.

Jack – known as Wheelz to his friends – received 20 nominations to carry the torch from supporters across the UK, but was overlooked by torch relay organisers Locog. Instead, today’s line-up of torchbearers includes BP’s Olympics operations manager and Chai Patel, one of the biggest donors to the British Olympic Association, according to data collected for our website, Help me investigate the Olympics.

“It was upsetting to hear that I had not got the place, because it would have been a completely surreal experience,” Jack says. “Racing has taken up quite a lot of my life and, at the back of my mind, I am just hoping the reason I did not get it was a fair reason.”

In total, 20 of the 24 Kingston torchbearers come from outside the south-west London borough, and local people may wonder where Jack is. “I had a lot of random people come up to me asking about it,” he says. “They were disappointed and upset that I had not been chosen. I had put all the hard work into it and I had so many nominations.”

A spokesperson for Locog did not discuss Jack’s case, instead pointing out that, across the UK, more than 60,000 nominations for torchbearers had been received, “each with their own inspirational story. The judging panels had a really difficult task of choosing those that should be put forward.”

Before the relay began, Locog promised that half the torchbearers would be aged between 12 and 24 – yet as the relay comes to its climax, only a third have come from that group. “I guess I would ask them [Locog] to have a bigger dig into their list and see who is there,” says Jack. “Maybe there are some up-and-coming youngsters who they haven’t heard of yet and deserve to have a go.”

Locog’s spokesperson added: “People were chosen on merit through the public nomination campaigns rather than their age. It is right that we selected people with the strongest personal stories.”

Having broken 64 bones since he was four weeks old, Jack is an ambassador for the Brittle Bone Society. He is also ranked eighth fastest in wheelchair speeds in the UK, and has even broken records while nursing broken bones. His bravery was recognised in 2007 with a Children of Courage award. Now he is aiming for the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil, but to achieve this ambition, he will need to find sponsors where family and local charities have helped to date.

“It is always helpful to have some funding,” Jack says. “Mine is a very expensive sport, so the torch relay would have got me recognition and a possible chance of sponsorship.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin permalink
    July 24, 2012 9:27 pm

    You know that the Eastenders bit wasn’t part of the real relay right?
    The real relay finished at 6.50pm that night.

  2. samedifference1 permalink*
    July 25, 2012 1:22 am

    Of course, I know Billy Mitchell isn’t a real torchbearer- my point was they would rather give it to a fictional character than a young charity worker who had 20 nominations. Doesn’t seem fair.

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