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Hundreds turn out for Paralympic Torch relay in Watford
Karen Ashworth, 47, of Gable Close, Abbots Langley, waited for the torch with daughter Georgina and niece Sarah Cook.
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Watford in the early hours of the morning to give the Paralympics torch a raucous welcome on its way to the Olympic stadium.
Despite a two-hour delay in the relay, many residents stayed out to greet the runners between around 2.40am and 4.30am as they made their way between Garston and Bushey.
The torch arrived in the town via the A41 before making a brief pit stop at Sainsbury’s Dome Roundabout store.
It then headed along St Albans Road and Beechen Grove before passing Lower High Street and on to Bushey.
The relay started yesterday evening in the home of the Paralympics in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, and will end up at the stadium in Stratford later this morning. Many Watford residents turned out with flags and Union Jack paraphernalia and despite the long wait on a chilly night the mood remained overwhelmingly positive.
The event drew a wide range of people, from the curious to ardent Olympic enthusiasts.
Karen Ashworth, 47, of Gable Close, Abbots Langley, had come back from a birthday theatre trip in London last night when she decided to come and see the torch on the spur of the moment.
Waiting for the torch at Sainsbury’s, with her daughter Georgina and niece Sarah Cook, she said: “I had just been to see Mamma Mia at the theatre and we decided to come and see the Paralympic torch.
“We had gone to see the Olympic Torch in Hemel Hempstead, but we only heard about this the other night.”
However for Olympic super fan Helen Isaacs, from Hempstead Road , the Paralympic Torch Relay’s journey through Watford was an unmissable event.
The 49-year-old has taken seven months off from her job at Debenhams’ head office to take part in both the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies as well as volunteer as a games-maker.
She joined crowds at Sainsbury’s last night wearing a light bulb-topped bowler hat from the closing ceremony after a day preparing for voluntary work at the Paralympics.
She said: “I was really pleased that it (the Paralympic torch) it came to Watford and Watford has not let me down.” Among some of the people to carry the torch through the town was Alby Dobinson, 17, from Romford in Essex, who was left with a severe brain injury after being run over at the age of 13.
However after having re-learnt how to walk and talk again he has gone on to get nine GCSEs and is studying at sixth form.
Another torchbearer was Eleni Burgess, 25, from Stockport who was born paralysed below the chest and has campaigned to improve the experience of disabled pupils at mainstream schools.
After her dream of competing at the 2012 games in wheelchair racing was ended when she developed osteomyelitis Eleni went on to become a qualified coach and trains other disabled athletes.
Terri Westoreland, 62, from, Balderton and grandmother to three autistic children also carried the torch through the town for her work founding and running a school for children on the Autistic Spectrum.
The torch bearers were met with a loud reception as they made their way into the car park of Sainsbury’s.
Following the stop at supermarket the town’s elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, expressed her delight at the strong turnout for the relay despite the long delays.
She said: “I am really, really delighted so many people have stuck it out and made their presence felt. I am really proud.”
As crowds gathered to wait for the torch in Lower High Street fire crews opened the Watford Fire Station to the public and made cups of tea and coffee for people.
Among those who waited until around 4.30am to greet the torch were a group from Disability Watford, who campaign for disabled people’s rights in the town.
Leigh Hutchings, the group’s chairman, said some members had been up since midnight getting ready for the torch.
After the torch finally passed, he said: “It was well worth coming to.”
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