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Revamp our track to train future stars
1:00pm Sunday 15th December 2013 in News
NEVER has it been more important to provide worldclass sporting facilities for young people as the country continues to bask in the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Inspiring the next generation of sporting stars was a core focus of last year’s spectacular events. Athletics has been at the heart of the competition since the birth of the Olympic movement in 1896.
However, many communities have limited public facilities where budding athletes can train, including Canvey.
The island has a rich history in producing the very best sporting stars, with new running sensation Jessica Judd making her debut on the world stage earlier this year.
Despite this, the island’s only public running track has fallen into disrepair and is in such a poor state it has been officially taken out of action by Castle Point Council.
As a result, residents are being forced to train outside the borough, including Jessica, 18, who instead uses facilities in Basildon and Chelmsford.
Now campaigners are reviving a fight to restore the sixlane running track to its former glory and transform it into a haven for sport enthusiasts. If restored, it is hoped the site could also be equipped for pole vault, high jump, long jump, discus and javelin and district sports competitions could once again be held there.
Campaigners also hope there could be a base created for community groups to meet and store equipment.
Former athletics coach George Beecham, who used to help train former Team GB decathlete Dean Maceywhen he was younger, said it is vital the track is restored to how it used to be. Mr Beecham, 82, of Tewkes Road, Canvey said: “Originally we used to have all those facilities available at Waterside, long jump, pole vault, discus, shotput, everything.
It was wonderful, but gradually all that has disappeared and UK athletics was not prepared to licence it due to its poor condition, which is a real shame.
“Back in the day it used to be so well used. Dean Macey was one of my pupils. He used to come down and train with me and he was absolutely great, even back then he showed real promise. Having the facilities at Waterside right on his doorstep would no doubt have been of huge benefit to him.
“There are lots of children on the island who could be as good as him if they were given the chance.”
Mr Macey, who grew up on Canvey, is most famous for winning gold for the decathlon in the 2006 Commonwealth Games and still uses the track.
He said: “There’s no pole vault, no long jump. It is literally just a track in a field.
“It’s needed replacing for years but for me it hasn’t changed a bit. It’s home.
“If they could do something to bring it back to life it would be great. Canvey has had some great talent and having that back would inspire more youngsters.
There are a lot of kids on Canvey. If they don’t want to play football what else is there for them to do?”
About 400 people have also signed a petition backing the calls for the running track to be brought up to scratch.
Former Canvey resident Jane Dobson, 25, who started the petition, said the refurbishment is long overdue, as she first started a campaign when she was just 15 to try and improve the site.
She said: “I started running when I was just ten and would go down there two days a week to train with my coach George Beecham and it was so popular.
“Its not just the running track, they could do so much to improve it there and make it a great site to train for all different athletics sports.
“I know I would be happy to let my daughter use the running track if it was improved.’ “She loved it and I think a lot of people would go there if it was brought up to scratch.”
To sign the petition, visit www.chn.ge/186Ipsy
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