Henry turns Olympic detective for schools

THE BBC’s marathon television, radio and online coverage of the London 2012 Olympics, together with the thousands of words written by newspaper and magazine journalists, will ensure there is a valuable archive legacy for future reference.

However, the exploits of many Olympians, including some from the Borders, date back to the days prior to such extensive broadcast and press interest.

As such, the record of their sporting achievements was in danger of being lost. But their feats have been safeguarded as a source of inspiration for the years to come thanks to a pioneering learning resource produced for local schools.

Over the last two months, TheSouthern has been profiling many of the local Olympic 
athletes, and others with 
Olympic links from this 
region, who feature in the new booklet, entitled Border Olympians and Paralympians: A Learning Resource. It has been compiled from original research by well-known Border sports historian and coach, Henry Gray, with design work by the Heritage Hub.

Henry has more than 30 years of personal and professional involvement in sports and sports coaching – and research into both.

He is coach to Berwick’s Guy Learmonth, one of the world’s top junior indoor 800 metres runners, as well as double world age group duathlon and triathlon champion Joyce Mark. In addition, he has trained 50 Scottish swimming finalists.

Moreover, as a lifelong sports historian, Henry played a major role in establishing the Borders Sports Hall of Fame.

The quest for sporting excellence is part of Henry’s genetic make-up, coming as he does from a family with a fascinating sporting story of its own to tell.

His father – Henry senior – and his uncle – Alan Gray – became top Scottish athletics coaches and a staggering 16 Scottish records have been set by athletes who have benefitted from the remarkable coaching feats of father, son and uncle.

Henry has the distinction of appearing in the 1981 Oscar-winning movie Chariots of Fire, which tells the amazing life story of Olympic sprint legend Eric Liddell.

In this, the last of our series of features on the booklet, Henry says the London Olympics will definitely have inspired Borders youngsters.

“The London games seem to have been really successful. The British team did well, surpassing its medal targets, and that is good going forward to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014,” he told us.

“We can expect the Borders to have a good representation of athletes at the Commonwealth Games. In fact, something like a fifth of the 41-strong squad of athletes [in track and field events] are trained by either Borders coaches or by former residents of the Borders.”

He says the four-year interval between the Olympic Games definitely adds to the unique lustre of the event. “Back when the modern Olympic era started in 1894, there was only a handful of countries taking part.

“But at each successive games more and more countries took part and today there is nothing like the prestige of winning an Olympic medal.

“Even just to become an Olympian or a Paralympian is a wonderful achievement because the standard you have to meet for selection is very high.”

As for the Olympic/Paralympic-themed learning resource for schools, Henry says it has been well received in local 
schools.

“The feedback so far has been excellent,” he told us. “It has been a great partnership between myself, the Heritage Hub and the Hub’s Keith Polson.

“Since it first came out, more and more new information about Borderers with Olympic links has come to light and this will be continually added to the guide to update it.

“And a lot of that new information has come forward as a result of The Southern Reporter serialising profiles from the resources during the build up to London 2012.

“It means all this historical sporting data, which was in danger of being lost forever, has now been safeguarded and preserved for everyone to see.”