Belfast Telegraph

Juniors speak of cauldron honour

The young athletes chosen to help light the Olympic Cauldron at the climax of Friday night's opening ceremony have spoken about the honour of being nominated to carry out the important task.

The teenagers, who have all shown promise in their disciplines, ran around the track together after being passed the flame by Sir Steve Redgrave. The group was joined by seven Olympic heroes - including Sir Steve - for the final lighting of the cauldron in front of 260 of Britain's greatest sportsmen and women.

Katie Kirk, 18, from Holywood in County Down, Northern Ireland, was nominated by Dame Mary Peters, who won gold in the women's pentathlon at the 1972 Munich Games.

Miss Kirk, part of the gold medal-winning team in the 4x400m relay at the European Junior Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, last year, said: "It was really exciting. The atmosphere was brilliant. It was just such an honour to be chosen to do it. I didn't understand just what an honour it was until now."

She said she had got to know Dame Mary after running at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast, which was built in her honour. "I'm so honoured that Mary chose me," she added.

Miss Kirk said she managed to enjoy most of Friday night's ceremony before the nerves set in. She said: "We had seats so got to watch all the dancing and music and had time to soak in the atmosphere. When I ran my knees were shaking, it was very nerve-wracking."

Lighting the Olympic cauldron was a special birthday present for sailor Callum Airlie, from Westruther, Berwickshire, who within hours had boarded a plane to compete in the 420 Youth World Championships in Austria.

His mother Julie Robson said: "He lit the cauldron and he was on a plane at 6.30am to Austria. He turned 17 today. I think it is a case of feelings are beyond description - proud does not touch it. I think I will watch it a couple of times to know that it was not a dream and it was him. I think he is a bit like that."

The two-time Optimist UK National Champion was nominated to be among the final seven by double Olympic sailing champion Shirley Robertson. He has been competing internationally since 2008.

After the special event all the young athletes were excited and "glowing but still very level-headed about it," according to Ms Robson. She said: "It was very, very nice, very, very pleasant and absolutely amazing but totally surreal."


From Belfast Telegraph