Local athletics hero Danny Crates has been given ‘the greatest honour an athlete can have’ after being chosen to carry the Paralympics Team GB flag at the Paralympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing tomorrow (Saturday 6 September 2008).
Danny, aged 35, from Maldon in Essex, is part of a 36-strong athletics team competing in Beijing. He will be defending his T46 (arm amputee) 800m title won in Athens four years ago.
Danny was recently welcomed as guest of honour at a Business Breakfast hosted by Epping Forest District Council. In an speech to local business people he encouraged them to reap the benefits of London 2012 with an inspirational account of his journey from crash survivor to Olympic champion. After the tragedy in which he lost his arm, he described how he rebuilt his life and was inspired to strive for Olympic glory. He returned to playing rugby and trained to become a scuba diving instructor. He had a surreal job swimming as a one-armed diver with sharks in a sea-life centre.
He described his disappointment in not winning the 400 meter Gold in Sydney where he came third. Where most people saw Bronze as a fantastic result, he used it as the driving force to achieve his real ambition and switched to 800 meters. He achieved not only the Gold Medal in Athens but then went on to become World Champion two years later.
Danny has been training hard for Beijing and hopes that London 2012 will not be too late for him but he understands the profound impact the Olympic and Paralympic Games has had on his life.
Councillor Mrs Heather Harding, Leisure and Young People Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: Anyone who has listened to Danny or seen him in action on the track will know what a great example he sets. It was marvellous to listen to him tell his story at the Business Breakfast. For an athlete, few honours can compare to being asked to carry the flag at the Paralympic Games. He is a fantastic choice and I know the whole country will be willing him on to further glory.”