A SCHOOLBOY with cerebral palsy who captured hearts around the world when he pushed aside his walking support and finished his first ever triathlon unaided has launched the search for the 750 volunteers that will make a global triathlon in Leeds a success.
The world’s best triathletes will arrive in the city on June 11 and 12 for the 2016 Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds, competing on a course designed with the help of Bramhope Olympians Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee.
Hundreds of volunteers - from those who gained experience offering their time at the Grand Depart and Tour de Yorkshire to complete beginners - will be needed to support the athletes along the way, act as race officials, and help the legions of sports fans from around the world who will come to the city.
Yesterday, the very first volunteer to sign up, nine-year-old Bailey Matthews, issued a rallying cry to others to get involved while signing up recruits at Leeds Railway Station.
Bailey, from Worksop, rose to international stardom last July when he was filmed crossing the finish line in the children’s event at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, after swimming 100m, riding a bike for 4km and running for 1.3km. The video has now had more than 850,000 views on YouTube and has been seen by millions more worldwide on social media.
In December, he as presented with the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show and received a standing ovation from the huge audience full of sporting royalty.
Bailey plans to take part in seven triathlons this year - including his own ‘Be More Bailey’ event in Derby in July.
Asked why it was so important that people volunteered, Bailey told the YEP: “Because without them the event can’t happen at all.”
He said the volunteers were there to support the athletes.
Bailey said: “They will be guiding people. Saying ‘no, go this way, go that way’, they’ll be giving out drinks and giving out medals and supporting the athletes.”
Visitors to the city will also be supported by the volunteers. Organisers are expecting demand for volunteering places to be high, and members of the Leeds City Ambassadors scheme, who helped at the Tour De Yorkshire and Grand Depart, are among those who are planning on taking part.
Leeds City Ambassadors’ assistant coordinator Rosemary Holmes said: “We see ourselves as a friendly face. We have a lot of collective knowledge about the city, we’re passionate about Leeds and want to share that with other people.”
Leeds Council leader Coun Judith Blake said: “Volunteers have an invaluable role to play in the running and success of major sporting events like this.
“We’re expecting huge interest in the event, with people coming to Leeds from all over the world.
“This will be a chance to put Leeds truly on the map for hosting an international events and we want to give people the best possible welcome.”
The event will be a key date in the World Triathlon series and will also act as preparations for members of the Great Britain Triathlon Team heading to the Rio Olympics.
Heather Sellars, 25, of Headingley, is vying for the third and final women’s spot on the Rio team. If picked, she will compete in Leeds.
She said: “For the event to take place where we train every day is amazing. In the past, having the home crowd when the World Series has been in London has been great, but to have it here in Leeds will be amazing, and so beneficial to our athletes.”
Volunteers can apply online at http:\\leeds.triathlon.org/volunteer
Applications closes on May 23.