Two gold-winning paratriathletes from Marlpool have been made honorary Freeman of the Borough.
David Ellis, 27, and Phil Hogg, 44, were each given the coveted title when they attended a special ceremony held at Ripley Town Hall.
The pair, who only live one street apart, are now both onthe Great Britain Paratriathlon Talent Programme working towards the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Councillor Steve Hayes said: “Both Phil and Dave are fantastic role models and we are delighted to be able to honour them in this way.”
Phil’s sporting career began following a serious cycling accident in 1991. He initially took part in wheelchair basketball and became a GB regular. His paratriathlon career is relatively new but he has already won gold at the European Championships and the British Championships.
He claimed fourth spot in the recent World Championships, posting the fastest ever time by a British tri-athlete.
This week the gold medal hopeful paid tribute to the generosity of Heanor people who have helped raise cash to buy racing equipment.
Phil said: “In Heanor we have a really strong community and this has just reinforced my belief. It’s made me really proud to be part of that community. “I don’t lack motivation but these people are in my heart and mind every time I go out on my new bike and train.
“In my career and in my life I have had lots of ups and lots of downs. I have won some really big races but apart from getting married, and the birth of my daughter and my son, this is without a shadow of a doubt one of the proudest moments of my life.”
Phil’s wife, Sarah, said: “We really wouldn’t have been able to do this without the community of Heanor. People just rallied. There was a ‘fit-a-thon’, there were people having waxing done. We had a charity night for him and a massive raffle. Really, even down to little old ladies down the street coming to the door with five pound notes saying ‘Can you give him that for me?’
“It really does warm you. It’s the best thing about living in Heanor.”
Alisdair MacDonald, of British Triathlon, said: “Their first para-triathlon competition was the European Championships in Turkey. On that occasion both guys came away with a gold medal which was fantastic. They then went on to their second competition, which was the British championships, and both defended their status and came away with gold medals.”
David Ellis moved into paratriathlon via swimming where he was a multiple gold medal winner.
Shortly after the switch to paratriathalon he also claimed a gold medal in the Tri6B category for visually-impaired athletes at the European and British Championships earlier this summer and has now claimed gold in the ITU World Paratriathalon Championships.
Phil called David an ‘amazing athlete.’ He said: “I am so proud to be on the same team as him. When we swim together he’s like a fish. When he is in the water, that’s his environment. He really works well in the water.”
Dave’s mum Marissa said: “He’s very committed, very dedicated. He’s a quiet lad. Being partially sighted makes a difference because it sort of takes your confidence a little bit. He fought through all that. I am very proud of him. You’re proud of your children no matter what. But for him to have achieved what he’s done is amazing. To be here tonight is wonderful.”
David admitted to being a little lost after he contracted the eye condition at the age of 16 which damaged his sight.
He said: “I managed to qualify for the 2008 paralympics and went to that. And then I just missed out on London. I was looking for something different and then triathlon came along. I won the European, the British and the world championships. I just had a good year really!”
Freedom of the Borough is the highest honour the council can bestow on a citizen and is reserved for people of distinction who have provided ‘eminent services to the borough’.
To see a video of the event visit our Facebook page or go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg1-QlqiSUE