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Our Olympic heroine.

Byline: NAOMI CORRIGAN

THE Olympic torch relay on Teesside prompted fond memories of our own sporting heroes and heroines.

Among those to make their mark was former Stokesley sprint star Louise Stuart who made the 200m quarter-finals at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Aged 21, Louise defied a debilitating illness just days before the Games to perform with distinction alongside the legendary Florence Griffith-Joyner.

She dramatically lost half a stone in weight in the pre-Olympic holding camp in Japan after suffering a reaction to antibiotics for a wisdom tooth infection.

Thankfully she regained enough strength to compete and was first drawn in the same heat as Jamaican legend Merlene Ottey.

Louise was pleased with her run, finishing fourth and qualifying as a fastest loser.

She returned in the evening for the quarter-final determined not to embarrass herself.

"I was up against Florence Griffith-Joyner and I just didn't want to finish last," she said.

"But I did pretty well, finishing sixth or seventh."

Two years later she travelled to the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and she also reached the semi-finals of the European Championships in Split, Croatia, then part of Yugoslavia, in 1990.

Overall, Louise made 30 full international appearances for England and Great Britain.

She won six Northern titles and amassed 20 gold medals from the North-east athletics championships, in addition to still holding the championship best times for the two sprints and the sprint relay.

She retired due to an ankle injury after falling on an icy pavement in Newcastle.

Some 24 years after her Olympic bid and Louise - married name Collins - is now involved in another Olympic-themed event in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, where she lives with her husband and three children.

As reported, the 44-year-old has helped organise The Berkhamsted Games, a pre-Olympic day in July involving 2,500 children.

But she'd love to use a real Olympic torch in the event and is hoping that someone from Teesside may be willing to loan her theirs.

Berkhamsted's leg of the relay is a few days after the event so no one there can lend Louise a torch.

Louise's dad and former coach Charles, who lives in Stokesley, would collect and return the torch.

To help, email Louise on info@berkhamstedgames2012.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

MAKING HER MARK: Louise Stuart, above, and racing against Silke Knoll at the Seoul Games in 1998, left. The Stokesley sprinter is hoping a Teesside torchbearer will lend her thier torch, like the one right, for an Olympic-themed event
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jun 28, 2012
Words:414
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