Community hero torch reward

Abram resident Andy Smith has been chosen as an Olympic Torch bearer
Abram resident Andy Smith has been chosen as an Olympic Torch bearer

A KIND-HEARTED Wigan man dedicated to helping the community says he was in total disbelief when he was selected as an Olympic torchbearer.

Andy Smith now works as an apprentice community sports coach, but prior to that he had been made redundant and decided to throw himself into volunteering in his local community.

And it was that commitment and dedication to helping others that saw him nominated by one of his colleagues to be a torchbearer when the Olympic torch comes to the borough at the end of May.

The 22-year-old said: “One of my colleagues had filled in all of the forms and then he came to me asking if I’d be happy for him to put me forward and I said yes but I didn’t actually think that anything would come of it.

“So when I found out that I’d been selected I was in total disbelief, because there are so many more people who’ve done much more than I have.

“I found out back in January but was told I couldn’t announce it officially until March, which was quite difficult but I was able to tell a few people close to me and a few at work who’d known I was being entered so it wasn’t too bad really.

“But now it’s been announced everybody is really pleased and I actually think some of them are more excited than me.”

A number of years ago Andy, from Platt Bridge, was made redundant from his job at a nightclub and so started volunteering with Wigan Sports Development on its Midnight League, at which he started as a player.

He dedicated many hours of his spare time throughout the six months he was unemployed to running one of the sessions and even went on to set up his own team in Abram, where he used to live.

The team then went on to get through to the national finals and come third out of teams from right across the country.

To his delight he was then offered an apprenticeship with Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust through Lancashire Football Association and has not looked back since.

He said: “Being given the chance to become an apprentice sports coach was wonderful as I had really wanted to get into a job in sports and had been looking out for something like this for a long time.

“And now not only do I have my dream job but I’ve also been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of such a huge historical and prestigious event.

“I am really proud and feel extremely privileged to have been selected to carry the torch through Abram, but I don’t want to take all the credit for being involved in the community because it was also a lot down to the hard work of so many people who helped me.”