TEENAGERS from across the town battled it out to impress Olympic gold medallist Linford Christie as he brought his Street Athletics back to the town for its 10th year on Saturday.
The event was set up to encourage sport among disadvantaged children across the country and involves a series of 100 metre heats, reflecting Linford’s event of choice.
Winners in the various age categories will go on to compete against their peers from around the country at the finals in Manchester.
Linford said he was surprised the event had become so popular it had lasted a decade, but was proud of the many success stories it has created.
“We have been going for 10 years now and it was set up to begin with just to try to give kids opportunities to take part in sport and get active,” he said.
“The winners will go to Manchester and race all the other finalists from around the country.
“We got to about eight or nine places we go to around the country, and last week we were in Nottinghamshire.
“There have been so many success stories over the past 10 years, and we have had kids who have never run before going on to compete in national championships and doing really well there.
“We have had really naughty kids come through and change their lives around. For one girl we had to apply to the courts to get some leniency so she could run, and after that she turned her life around completely. There are so many wonderful stories.”
Linford was coerced into pitting his skills against younger legs on more than one occasion, and often fell well short of his personal best. He said: “I do get involved but I only race the little ones myself, and they always beat me.
“It is all about trying to get the kids fit and give them something to do.
“We did it for one year and didn’t realise how long it would go on or how successful it would become, so who knows how long it could keep going. Hopefully someone will come along and take over.
“People always say they need to be eating healthier, but eating well and exercise go hand in hand so we have got to get the kids to work.”
Craig Oliver, 20, from Lower Stratton, qualified as a finalist and will be going to Manchester later this year.
He said: “This is the first time I have done this. I love sport and it is good experience, and you learn something new every day.
“You get communication skills and teamwork out of it, and even the kids you teach teach you something themselves.
“I am looking forward to Manchester at the end of this, because I will be going up against people from all over England in the finals.
“I do not see it as winning, I see it as meeting new people and just having a good time. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.”