Blind Olympics torch bearer must do it 56 miles from home

Shirley Waller
Shirley Waller
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A BLIND charity worker from Market Deeping may be forced to give up her chance to carry the Olympic torch because she has been told it will now not be in her home town.

Shirley Waller (78) (pictured right) was thrilled when she found out in November she had been picked from tens of thousands of people to take part in the torch relay across the UK.

But the flame went out for her last week when the official route and torchbearers were announced and she was listed to carry the torch on Wednesday, July 4, in Mumby – 56 miles away. To add to the confusion, her maiden name, Shirley Swan, had been used, which was mistakenly taken from her birth certificate.

Shirley said she was told in November that she would be completing a 300-yard stretch through Market Deeping on the same day, with her five-year-old Labrador guide dog, Alfie.

Shirley, who was nominated by the South Lincolnshire Blind Society and lives in Meadway, said: “I’m very honoured to have been chosen, but I can’t go to Mumby.

“I might have if I wasn’t totally blind, but you can’t just take a guide dog to a town and expect him to know where to go. I’d have to go the week before to train my dog.

“It isn’t just this. The whole town will be disappointed because I am so well known through my charity work.

“We’ve been planning it since we were originally told. The vicar at St Guthlac’s was going to bless the flame before I set off, children from the town and my family and friends were planning to cheer me on – even the local cafe was going to provide us with a free breakfast. It’s going to upset a lot of people.”

Shirley became partially sighted after suffering from measles at the age of six but her sight began to deteriorate further when she reached her 50s.

Then one morning she woke up and found herself completely blind – something which she had been told would happen eventually.

She said: “Carrying the torch was something I was going to remember for the rest of my life. I was only 15 when the Olympics came to the UK last and I was not all that interested before but now I am.”

A spokesman for London 2012 said: “As we are not visiting every community in the UK, it is not possible to have all 8,000 people carrying the Olympic Flame in their home town.

“From the outset we have made it clear that we will endeavour to place people within an hour of their nomination address to ensure the majority of people are able to be cheered on by friends and family.

“However, when cases come to light where there are extenuating circumstances we will review the offer made.”