PHOTO SPECIAL: Open top bus parade salutes double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington

THOUSANDS of people thronged Mansfield town centre for Tuesday evening's open top bus parade by double Olympic gold medallist Becky Adlington.

The most successful British swimmer for 100 years arrived back in Mansfield late on Monday evening – and 24 hours later the community gave its own salute to the golden girl.

All the Rebecca Adlington stories

Shops and homes were decorated in Union Jacks as the town got ready for a big party.

And film crews from all the national TV stations swarmed around the town centre, interviewing excited locals.

As well as the thousands in Mansfield Market Place, many more lining the bus route from Mansfield Civic Centre - with reports saying between 10,000-15,000 people were at the parade.

The golden celebrations started a little earlier when Becky and her family were taken from their Ryedale Avenue home in a gold Rolls Royce to Mansfield Civic Centre.

There she received a pair of gold Jimmy Choo designer shoes from mayor Tony Egginton, ahead of the 'welcome home' parade. The 460 water snake shoes were promised as a gift at a civic send-off party for her.

Becky will walk tall at homecoming!

The open top bus left Mansfield Civic Centre at around 6.30pm and wound its way along Chesterfield Road South, the inner ring road, Clumber Street and Leeming Street, before pulling into the Market Place for a celebration.

A giant TV screen was erected in the Market Place to show Becky's two gold medal-winning performances in the 400m and world record breaking 800m freestyle finals at the Beijing Games — together with other Olympic action.

BBC's East Midlands Today regional news programme broadcast live from the Market Place event, which included interviews with Becky on board the bus and a fireworks finale. The celebrations were also featured live on national BBC and ITV news.

Chad was in the Market Place throughout the event handing out free commemorative flags and goodie bags.

Two of the goody bags each contained a gold medal — with fantastic prizes donated by Curry's, Mansfield, for the lucky winners.

Mr Egginton told Chad: "She has raised the profile of Mansfield and as an individual she is remarkable and a lovely young lady.

"This is our way of saying a tremendous well done to her and her family, and a big 'welcome home'. We want as many people as possible to line the route and then come to the Market Place to cheer her on.

"To reach the very top of any sport requires years of hard work, focus and complete dedication - all traits which Rebecca has in abundance.

"What's more this success couldn't have happened to a nicer girl. Rebecca is a credit to herself, her family and Mansfield.

"Through the success of Rebecca we now have a golden opportunity to inspire even more of young people to go on and achieve success, whether it is in sport or other walks of life. This is what hard work can achieve."

Following the event in the Market Place, there was a private, invitation-only party for the 'golden girl' at the Civic Centre – an event labelled 'Becky's Bash' by mayor Tony Egginton and featuring the band from her former school, Brunts.

A more formal civic event, which will also mark the achievements of the town's Paralympians, is planned for the end of September.

Chad would like to thank Curry's, Nottingham Road, Mansfield, for providing two great prizes; an i-pod Nano and a Samsung Digital Camera for our goody bags.

We would also like to thank all the companies which joined together to help create the goody bags full of a variety of different things for all the family.

These included: Barr, Bookers, Boots, Cadbury Factory Shop, Debenhams, Derbyshire Building Society, Edwardian Confectioners, JJB Sports, Julian Graves, Keith Hall, Klick, Mansfield Building Society, Odeon, Showstoppers Rosettes & Trophie, Subway, Superbowl, The Body Shop, The Health Food Store, Whittards, WH Smiths.

Also, a special thanks to Boots who not only provided us with substantial gifts for the goodie bags, but also created a special gift for Rebecca - an Armani bag and 'smellies'.

Among the tributes paid by the crowds in Mansfield on Tuesday were:

Sam Spencer, of Mansfield's Ladybrook estate, says Rebecca Adlington has helped put the town on the map.

"She is a local hero, a national hero and a celebrity who can help take Mansfield forward," she said.

Sophie Woodhouse, of Forest Town, told Chad: "I think she is brilliant. She's from round here and she proves you can achieve anything with hard work and talent. It will help people who want to take up sports. I think she is an inspiration."

Valerie Parker, of Riddings, said: "I am looking forward to seeing Rebecca in the flesh after watching her on television. We couldn't wish for a better champion. I've bought a frame to put a photo of her in, so I am waiting for the right shot."

Shirley Telford, of Pleasley, said: "There is a great atmosphere here today and she deserves it as she has worked very hard.

"She is someone who youngsters in Mansfield can look up to. My granddaughter is learning to swim so you never know one day it could be her."

Flo Bachelor, of Huthwaite, said: "This is absolutely brilliant. We watched her on television and now we are going to see her in person.

"We didn't know who she was before the Olympics but we certainly do now. To win one gold is superb, but to win two golds is unbelievable."

Evelyn Wright, of Mansfield's Ladybrook estate, said: "I am tremendously proud today. I watched all of the swimming and it was marvellous.

"I didn't know who she was before, but she has worked so hard and she seems like a nice girl as well. You can feel it in the air today, everyone is happy and smiling. It is wonderful."

Keith Turner, from Woodborough Road, Mansfield, said: "It is fantastic news for the town and we are all very proud of Becky.

"She has put Mansfield on the sporting map and given the town some great publicity. I was up early to watch the races and they were wonderful moments.

"When she won the first race it was fantastic, but to win the second and get the world record was awesome."

James Nairn, of Mansfield, said: "I am really impressed with what she did. Seeing her swim and destroy the field was just amazing.

"I just wanted to be here today to see her in person. She made me feel very proud and it was a fantastic sporting moment."

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