Olympic boost for Halesowen’s first road race

Olympians Kristian Thomas and Jess Varnish greeted throngs of runners as they took part in Halesowen’s first road race.

Olympians Kristian Thomas and Jess Varnish greeted throngs of runners as they took part in Halesowen’s first road race.

Around 450 runners, including dozens of families, took to the start line for the inaugural fun run through the streets of the town.

The Team GB stars were joined by Paralympians Jordanne Whiley and Helen Scott at the event held yesterday. The 5k charity race was the brainchild of Rotarian Alan Bowler of Halesowen and Rowley Regis Rotary Club.

Organisers said they were delighted with the turnout. Runners were introduced to the famous Midlands Olympic and Paralympic athletes by Mr Bowler before the race was started by the Mayor of Dudley, Councillor Melvyn Mottram. The athletes then helped give out medals to people as they completed the course.  Cyclist Jess Varnish, who is a member of Halesowen Cycling Club with Helen Scott, said she enjoyed the day: “It is incredible being able to see people take part. The Olympics really have inspired a generation.”

Bronze medallist Kristian, who trains at Earls Gymnastics Club in Halesowen, said he was overwhelmed by the reaction from the public. “You saw what is like for the Olympics and Paralympics and it has been absolutely amazing to see the support we have had  and to see everyone down here is great,” said the 23-year-old from Wednesfield.

The Olympians warmed up for their starring roles yesterday by watching their respective team-mates on Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday night. Gymnast Kristian said Louis Smith – who was paired with Flavia Cacace – will relish taking to the dancefloor on the hit television show.

“He is a showman and this is just his cup of tea and I’m sure he’ll do well and be there towards the end,” he said.

Jess said she would love to follow in the footsteps of her friend, recently retired Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton. “I think she is going to do really well, she looked great.”

Halesowen wheelchair tennis star Jordan-ne Whiley, 20, earned a bronze with her doubles partner Lucy Shuker at the Paralympics.