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What a week it was! Norfolk and Suffolk torch bearers relive their moments of glory

09:55 09 July 2012

The Olympic torch relay makes its way through Cromer. Natasha Smith 12 from Cromer.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The Olympic torch relay makes its way through Cromer. Natasha Smith 12 from Cromer.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

n Campaigning mum Lisa Massingham was spurred on by family and friends as she carried the torch through East Rudham.

The 36-year-old from Gresham, near Holt, has worked tirelessly to help her three-year-old daughter Angelina Mills through operations to deal with her rare brain condition and raise more than £10,000 for the Sturge-Weber Foundation, which supports families in the same situation.

“I was really nervous beforehand, but when the flame gets lit it drives you on and it was fantastic,” she explained.

There was a kiss for Angelina, who was waiting at the half way point with brothers Luca, 11, and Stefan, 10. They had made a sign saying “go, go, mum.”

Miss Massingham took her torch down to the Crown pub at Sheringham in the evening where it attracted lots of attention and photo opportunities. It will also be making an appearance at Angelina’s nursery school sports day.

n Norwich’s multiple fencing medal winner Connie Adam said she felt like “royalty” when she swapped her sword for the Olympic torch.

Friends and family chanted her name as she carried the golden torch along Castle Meadow and Bank Plain.

The honour came after the 84-year-old grandmother returned from the World Veteran Fencing Championships with a bronze medal last year and successfully battled to become a freeman of the city the year before.

Mrs Adam, who lives on The Avenues and first started fencing when she was 60, said: “I enjoyed it fabulously. I thought it was really wonderful. I felt like royalty. Everyone was shouting ‘Connie, Connie’ and I saw people I haven’t seen for years –people I knew from fencing, badminton, bridge club. You just felt so important, I’ve never felt like that before.”

Mrs Adam said she will keep the torch in pride of place at home. She said: “I know I’ve got a lot of medals but nothing is going to top this, I’m thrilled to bits.”

n As Canon Simon Stokes carried the Olympic torch past some of Norwich’s most recognisable landmarks, he was almost moved to tears.

The 49-year-old vicar of Sprowston was joined by his guide dog Tigger as he carried the flame past City Hall, the Forum and close to Chapelfield Shopping Centre.

He was nominated by colleagues at his former church in Bowthorpe, in recognition of his fundraising work in the community.

Over the years, the father-of-three has twice completed the gruelling Beachy Head Marathon on the South Downs and jumped out of a plane.

He said: “I was overwhelmed, almost to the point of tears. I felt incredibly proud, privileged and humbled all at the same time. I felt so privileged to have had the opportunity and to have the work I’ve done recognised.

“I was running for everyone who I’ve ever worked with, encouraged, supported or been supported by.”

n For Eddie Pleban, carrying the Olympic torch was a “landmark” in his recovery after suffering a stroke last year.

The 63-year-old (pictured below) carried the flame through the Royal Sandringham Estate in west Norfolk. He had suffered a stroke during a flight home from Australia where he had been visiting his daughter Sarah.

On Wednesday, he carried the torch in his wheelchair for the majority of his 300-metre leg but for the last 20 or so metres, he bravely got out of his chair and walked with his stick.

It was the first time Sarah, who was watching on a live stream, had seen him walk since his stroke.

Mr Pleban, who lives in Colman Road in Norwich with his wife Jeannie, said: “I had all these people around cheering me on and it was just such an honour, I can’t express my feelings.

“For me it was a landmark in my recovery. It was such an achievement for me – for me to be able to get up on my feet and walk with my stick.

“It gave me an incentive to work hard. It was brilliant.”

n Ena Mallett is still trying to come back down to earth after carrying the Olympic Flame along St Williams Way in Thorpe St Andrew.

The 79-year-old grandmother from Ranworth, who was the first woman to reach 7th dan black belt in ju-jitsu, was nominated by 11 different people to be one of those to carry the torch in Norfolk.

She has been a lollipop lady at Fairhaven Primary School in South Walsham for more than 27 years and also teaches ju-jitsu and keep fit classes.

Mrs Mallett said: “It was absolutely fantastic, I’m still trying to come back down to earth. That was the best day of my life. I was honoured to be able to do it.”

After carrying the torch, she started off a sponsored walk at Fairhaven Primary, where they surprised her with a guest visit from her favourite BBC Radio Norfolk presenter Chris Goreham.

She then joined in the celebrations at Ranworth where a party was thrown.

“It was absolutely awesome,” said Mrs Mallett. “I could never believe it could happen to me after 79 years of my life.”

n When Charlotte Peck came running into Chapelfield Gardens, her face lit up as brightly as the golden torch.

It was a special moment for her and her family after her battle with anxiety and depression two years ago. She recovered after about a year of treatment and since recovering, has trained as a Community First Responder.

She is also a full-time nursery nurse and is studying for a degree with the Open University to become a teacher.

The 24-year-old from Harleston said: “It was amazing. I couldn’t believe how many people there were. It was really nice lighting the cauldron and looked out and saw all these people.

“It was just lovely and it was lovely when I came into Chapelfield Gardens and saw my family. It was lovely to be part of it. Only 8,000 people got the opportunity so to be one of them is incredible.”

n As one of the carriers of the torch through Norfolk, Helen Dolphin helped bring the Olympic Games closer to Norfolk than ever before.

The 37-year-old lost her legs and hands when she was 22 to meningococcal septicemia – the blood poisoning form of meningitis – and has undergone more than 100 operations.

The former Anglia Television reporter, of New Costessey, was nominated because of her inspirational work to support others living with the after-effects of meningitis and for her drive to help people with a disability to lead a more independent life.

She carried was accompanied by her dog Yancey, who came from Canine Partners, as she carried the flame through King’s Lynn.

The medal-winning swimmer said: “To see all the crowds shouting and cheering was quite an experience. So many people were really happy to see the torch and it really brought the Olympic Games close to everyone.”

n Carrying the Olympic flame through Acle was “pretty amazing” for Natalie Bradley.

The determined 22-year-old was nominated for her dedication to dance and her passion for teaching youngsters.

Miss Bradley from Mulbarton, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, studied dance from the age of three and currently attends University Campus Suffolk, where she is studying Dance in the Community.

Despite an hour and a half commute to Ipswich every day, she teaches dance to young children at her dance school before having her own lessons. At the weekend she is a volunteer gymnastics coach.

She said: “It went really quickly but it was a great day. You got to meet everyone who was going around the Great Yarmouth area and tell our stories to each other. It was a great privilege to be part of something that’s going all the way around the country.”

n An inspirational youngster who has not let a rare condition stand in her way overcame tiredness to carry the Olympic flame.

Twelve-year-old Cromer Academy pupil Natasha Smith, has a rare kidney disorder but is a keen swimmer, horse-rider, and dancer.

She carried the golden torch through her home town.

Back at her school, telling her friends about the experience, she said it was “cool”, and she was “tired, but happy”.

Proud mum Melanie Poynter said her daughter “so deserved to do this” because of her courage through many operations.

She added: “She’s been through so much in the last couple of years and has really battled through. She’s been an inspiration.”

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