VIDEO: Mansfield honours Paralympic stars

Mansfield honoured its top sporting heroes at a special event to celebrate swimmers Ollie Hynd and Charlotte Henshaw on their Olympic successes.

The event marked their ‘unbelievable’ achievements over the past 10 years, topped off by their raft of medals at Rio 2016.

Crowds cheered as they made a grand entrance to the newly-refurbished Civic Quarter dining room on November 10 and to receive their ‘most special’ honour yet - the rare Freedom of Mansfield award.

Ollie, 23, won two gold medals and a bronze in Rio, on top of previous successes in London, the Commonwealth Games and the IPC World Championships. He’s even been honoured by the Queen with an MBE, but said his Freedom award is particularly special because it comes from his local area.

He added: “Local support is the most important to us – it means more when it’s local.”

Rio was an amazing experience, he added, and being part of Team GB meant you always had huge support from the people around you.

“I would say more so than in London – in Rio we were always together and when someone’s competing you’re all there watching the screens and supporting each other.”

“I definitely want to go to Tokyo in four years and also the commonwealth games in two years but for now I’m still celebrating Rio.”

The athletes are on a break for the moment before they get back into the hard slog of daily training. But Charlotte says she’s not certain what her future has in store.

The 29-year-old who won Bronze in Rio also won a gold at the IPC European Championships this year, and a silver in the London games. She said: “I’m slightly further on in my career than Ollie. Rio was my third games, and the amount of time I’ve given to swimming – you have to be sure that you can give four years of your time and your body. I’m taking each day as it comes, and I don’t think that competitive streak ever leaves you. Whether that’s in swimming or something else I don’t know.”

The Freedom of Mansfield has only been handout out only four times since 1974, and two of those were to swimmers – Rebecca Adlington and Ollie’s brother Sam, in 2012. So why is Mansfield so successful in the pool?

Charlotte added: “I don’t think it’s a secret that Mansfield is a hotbed for swimmers. We’ve got a great system here and you get lots of support from the council – it’s always been that way. We’ve just got the right people around us.

“My whole childhood was in Mansfield, I’ve trained here since I was 11 so you get that real sense of community and a connection to the home town, and it’s lovely to have the support of your home town.

She also praised the support of their coach, Glen Smith, who receives his own Freedom award after a long and successful career training the cream of Mansfield’s swimmers.

Charlotte added: “Glen is known as the legend, and I think originally it was self-proclaimed, but it’s not unfounded, he is a complete legend and we affectionately call ourselves Team Legend when we go anyway.”

Glen commented: “It’s quite an unbelievable moment for the three of us.

“I’ve coached Ollie since he was 11 and Charlotte since she was 12 so it’s a long time we’ve been doing this and we see each other more than our own families really, We’re in each others faces quite often.

“These two deserve everything. For me this is the highest thing - I can’t wish for anything else.”

Freedom awards, like the Keys to the City or the Freeman of London honour, is known to bestow some historic privileges on its recipients, and Mayor Kate Alsopp said she was ‘looking forward to seeing them drive sheep through the market square’.

She added: “It’s the most important and the biggest honour that a district can give to its people.

“It’s very very rare – it’s a wonderful opportunity to show how much Mansfield thinks of these wonderful people who train and work so hard, and are such wonderful ambassadors for Mansfield.

“My heart is bursting with pride.”