YOUNG athletes in Blyth have been inspired by an international cricketer who had to endure death threats by one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.
Former Zimbabwean fast bowler Henry Olonga told students at Bede Academy of the importance of standing up for your beliefs, as he presented awards at a sportsmen’s dinner.
Mr Olonga, who made his international debut in 1995, becoming the youngest player and first black cricketer for play for Zimbabwe, had to flee the country after a wearing a black armband in protest at the totalitarian regime of President Robert Mugabe.
“I had to stand up for what I believed in,” he said.
“I have no regrets because if I hadn’t I would not have been able to live with myself.
“Sport requires great tenacity, sometimes the need to endure pain, and the more effort you put into practice the luckier you will feel you will get.”
He said students at the prize-giving that they needed to show their character because sportsmen were role models.
“You need to leave Bede Academy as a well rounded human being with character prepared to push yourself to boundaries you have never reached before,” he said.
Before the awards, Mr Olonga visited students in their classrooms and took some cricket coaching.
He presented prizes to students who had excelled in sports ranging from rugby to netball, hockey to football and rowing to cricket.
There were also prizes for fencing, badminton, athletics, gymnastics, trampolining and dance.
The coveted Stannard Award, presented for outstanding team effort, went to Nicole Davis, who is not only a member of Bede’s hockey, athletics and rounders teams but also coaches Year 7 players.
The audience also heard about Bede team successes outside school including being Northumberland Schools 12-a-side football tournament winners, Northumberland Schools County League winners for Year 10 hockey and Year 10 netball and Bedlington/Blyth Sports Partnership tournament winners for Year 8 rugby and Years 7 and 8 hockey.
Principal Gwyneth Evans said: “Sport is an excellent motivator, shaping our students’ ambitions, drive and success.
“All our students have already achieved so much and exhibited dedication, commitment and energy that will help in all aspects of their lives.”
“They are supported by a dedicated team of teaching and support staff, without whom we could not offer the extensive range of opportunities that are available at Bede.”