MANCHESTER AND CONGLETON WELCOME THE QUEEN’S BATON RELAY TO ENGLAND IN AN ACTION PACKED FIRST DAY
Young BMX star Valerie Zebrokova had the honour of being England’s first batonbearer for the 2014 Queen’s Baton Relay as she rode into Manchester’s National Cycle Centre (NCC) this morning.
Riding alongside Jess Varnish and Matt Crampton, two of England’s top medal hopes for Glasgow 2014, Zebrokova kicked off what’s set to be a fantastic two weeks of sporting celebration.
It was a fitting venue for the Baton Relay after the success that the NCC’s riders have enjoyed globally following the Manchester Games in 2002 and Crampton pinpoints that moment as his own inspiration.
“I came to watch the Commonwealth Games in Manchester when I was 15 and rode in preview event in front of a packed crowd and it was amazing,” said Crampton.
“Watching guys with Chris Hoy here in 2002 made me think ‘yes, this is what I want to do. I want to be a sprinter.’ It was the first major cycling event I’d ever seen and it was incredible.”
Zebrokova, who’s part of the British Cycling BMX Talent Team, then handed the baton to Ralph Aldred before Alan Boyle completed the Batonbearer duties at the velodrome.
The Baton Relay made a stop at the National Squash Centre before heading on to Congleton for a festival of afternoon sport.
Over 10,000 people gathered at Congleton Park and leisure centre to take part in numerous activities and see Ann Brightwell and Jane Whetnall proudly parade the baton round in front of the cheering crowds.
Susan Moncrieff, who won a high jump silver in Manchester 12 years ago for Team England, joined the team at Congleton and has seen first-hand how the legacy of Manchester has had such a positive effect on the area.
“Having held the Games in Manchester, the legacy in the city has been superb and today really shows that,” said Moncrieff.
“Having thousands of people down to support it is amazing. Sport has really taken off in the area and that’s all thanks to what happened 12 years ago.”