'Local boy done good': Darlaston welcomes home Olympics home-town hero Ben Whittaker

There were cheers, handshakes and hugs as a Black Country Olympics hero was welcomed home.

The people of Darlaston cheer for their home-town hero Ben Whittaker
The people of Darlaston cheer for their home-town hero Ben Whittaker

The people of Darlaston came out in their droves to greet Olympic boxing light-heavyweight silver medallist Ben Whittaker, who grew up and developed as a boxer in the town.

Despite poor weather, the 24-year-old was greeted by plenty of fans old and young as he arrived at Darlaston Town Hall in an old-fashioned Bentley, with his girlfriend Heather McColl, ahead of a tour and a reception with the Mayor of Walsall Councillor Rose Burley.

Friendly and laid back, he was happy to pose for photos with anyone who asked and also allowed people to hold his silver medal, with many taking the opportunity to hold an Olympic medal.

Ben Whittaker arrives at Darlaston Town Hall with his girlfriend Heather McColl

He said: "The reception today has been great and this what I do it for, coming back and seeing everyone with a smile on their faces and the energy that brings.

"The level of pride is great and as they've said, I'm one of their own, so I was fighting for every single one of them. So it's only right that I can give back, show them the medal and pose for photos.

"I hope I can inspire kids to follow me as if I can do it, they can do it and I only live down the road, so I am local and I hope that inspires them."

Ben Whittaker takes in the surroundings of Darlaston Town Hall with Mayoress Maria Micallef and Mayor Rose Burley

The town hall had been dressed up for the private reception following a tour of the town, with the Bentley dressed up in British flags and those waiting outside were waving flags.

Shaun Hill from Darlaston was there with his family. The 33-year-old said Ben was a good example of what someone from a small town can achieve.

"It's really representative of what you can do coming from a small town and how far you can go if you've got the dedication to keep pushing," he said.

"It's good for the youngsters starting out in boxing as well as they can see that if they are willing to push themselves and not give up at the first hurdle, they can achieve what Ben did."

Elvis Festa gets a much-cherished selfie with Ben Whittaker

One of the youngsters who met and got a photo taken with Ben was 11-year-old aspiring boxer Elvis Festa from Darlaston, who said he was delighted to meet him and hold his medal.

He said: "It was really fun today because I got to meet a real boxer with a real Olympic silver medal and I really enjoyed watching him at the Olympics.

"It's great because he's from Darlaston and he's famous, but he's just down to earth and really nice."

Ben Whittaker inspects the cadets with Mayor of Walsall Councillor Rose Burley at Darlaston Town Hall

Tony Marshall, head coach of Darlaston boxing gym, spoke about what Ben had achieved and the 57-year-old said it could inspire people living in small towns to see what they could achieve.

He said: "It's unbelievable what he has achieved, coming from such a small town, and it shows what can be done if you want it and you're willing to achieve it.

"We were all getting up early in the morning to watch him at the Olympics and to see him get that medal really brought the butterflies to your stomach.

"He came down to our gym last week, just casually walked in with his medal and handed it out for the kids to see, which was great as their faces just lit up and gave them that thing to aspire to."

Charlotte Bott was pleased to see Ben, and the 39-year-old from Darlaston said he was an inspiration to her children.

The tour of Darlaston begins, with Ben and Heather in a vintage Bentley

She said: "My kids have autism, so it's been wonderful for them to see Ben and it's personal for us as he has ADHD, so it's good for them to look up and see they can achieve something.

"It was great to see him today and to get to hold the medal and he's a local boy whose done us proud."

The mayor, Councillor Burley, hosted the reception for Ben and his family and friends, and offered her own praise for his achievements.

She said: "It is indeed an honour to celebrate Ben’s achievement in Tokyo and to do so in Darlaston his home town.

"His determination and dedication is proof that believing in one’s own ability is definitely the only way to success.

"He truly is the best example of a local boy done good."

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News