East Lancashire athletes in victory parade through London

Steven Burke alongside other medallists in London this morning

Steven Burke alongside other medallists in London this morning

First published in Steven Burke

EAST Lancashire Olympic cycling medallist Steven Burke is taking part today in a heroes’ parade through the streets of London.

All the athletes that went to Beijing as members of Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic team have been invited.

The parade started at 11am with athletes travelling on a series of floats through the City before arriving in Trafalgar Square at around 12.30pm.

Lunchtime crowds are expected to gather to cheer on the men and women who have amassed the biggest medal haul for one hundred years.

Lancashire sprinters Graeme Ballard and Michael Churm are among the Paralympians taking part.

Michael says that his life has been a roller-coaster ride since China having already attended a similar parade through Manchester and a Civic reception hosted by the Mayor of Tameside where the Chorley Athletic Club member lives.

It has been a similar story for fellow cerebral palsy athlete Graeme who also enjoyed the Manchester parade, and he has been invited to the Lancashire Sports Awards Evening at the Preston Guild Hall later this month.

At the moment, both Ballard and Churm receive central funding, but once the celebrations are out of the way, the allocation of funds going forward towards the London Games in 2012 will be finalised.

Charles van Commenee, the newly appointed Head Coach of UK Athletics, is known to favour assisting fewer athletes, and there is speculation that Paralympic athletes who failed to medal in Beijing could have their funding stopped.

In Beijing, Churm was fifth in the 200m and eighth in the 100m.

The two didn’t compete against each other as Ballard has a greater disability but Graeme was also at his best in the 200m where he was sixth following eighth places in both the 100m and 400m.

Both men have won medals in the Paralympics before, Michael in Sydney and Graeme at Athens, and both have good reasons for falling just short this time.

Churm was injured during the build up to Beijing and in the 100m was given only three hours notice of being in the final after a Chinese athlete was reclassified.

Ballard has never left a major championship without a medal before and did underperform in Beijing, but it has since been discovered that he was carrying a serious back injury.

Following a recent scan, he has been referred to a neurologist.

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