By Claire Schofield
Hundreds of young people flocked to the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds today to welcome the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay.
Around 1,300 youngsters from 80 local schools attended the event to welcome the baton on its visit to the city, en route to its final destination in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games this summer.
Four baton bearers proudly carried the iconic sporting symbol around the centre, each selected in recognition of their outstanding contribution to sport and the sporting community.
Leeds gymnast, Nile Wilson, 18, from Pudsey, among one of the baton bearers, said: “It’s a great achievement for me to do something like this and I’m really privileged to have been selected. Not many people in the whole country get to carry the baton so it’s a great honour and I am really happy to be a part of it”.
Nile, who claimed five gold medals at the European Youth Olympics and a further six at the World School games in Rio, has his sights set on the Commonwealths’ and is hoping to make the England gymnastics team, which is due to be announced on Tuesday.
Fellow baton bearer, City of Leeds swimmer Sophie Taylor, 18, from Harrogate, and member of the England swimming team for the Glasgow games, said: “It is a great honour to take part and I am really proud to have been given the opportunity to do it”.
Sophie won a silver medal the World Youth Championships in Dubai last year and she is heading to the Commonwealth Games ranked in the top three in her event.
She added: “Not many people can say that they have carried the baton and to be able to do it in Leeds where I train is a big honour”.
Paralympic weightlifter, Ali Jawad, 25, currently ranked number one in the world, and sports volunteer, Charlotte Sansome, 23, who has done exceptional work to develop hockey in Leeds, also carried the baton for the event.
During the action-packed sporting day, youngsters got a chance to try their hand at a variety of Commonwealth sports, including cycling, running and rugby.
The baton, which contains a message from the Queen to the Commonwealth, had visited 68 out of the 70 Commonwealth nations before its visit to Leeds.
It will be making its way back through Scotland to the start of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, beginning July 23, completing its journey of more than 118,000 miles.