William Watkins, Bridgend – carried the torch in Bridgend
My journey started July 2011 when I was selected for “Gemau Cymru” (Welsh Games) for swimming. I swim 14hrs or 7 sessions a week with Bridgend Swim Squad. I was very excited about the games, especially when I was told that it was a legacy to the Olympics. It made me proud to feel part of it. Through the games my mum was able to nominate me for a torchbearer which I encouraged her to do.
A few months went by and I became Welsh champion (retaining my title) in Welsh lifesaving championships and gained a Silver and 4th place in the GB lifesaving championships with my club, Pen y bont SLSC. This activity also enables me to voluntarily patrol our beaches during the summer months.
In September we were all shocked and pleased to find from an email from Coca Cola that I had been shortlisted to carry the torch. I never thought out of all those children/competitors who attended the games that I would be selected. In March this dream came true and I knew I would be able to make everyone proud.
The build up to the day was amazing. I received gifts through the post, visits to the Senydd, meeting and being photographed with David Davies – in my opinion a welsh swimming legend. The excitement just kept building.
Then, I got injured! I was racing doing my favourite event, 200m butterfly – at the time I had the fastest time in Wales for my age group. I won the race but had excruciating back pain 3/4 of the way through and I missed the record by one 100th sec! I was gutted but the pain was worse. Five weeks later and a week in hospital I was still lying on the floor of my lounge. The Welsh Swimming championships past and my dream of winning the gold in my best event had faded. My mood was low but my family, friends and chiropractors were there for me and I gradually improved. Eight weeks down the line I still couldn’t climb stairs. I thought my dream of running with the torch was over but I was determined to get back. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and there was no way anything was going to stop me.
Shortly after this, each day I improved and the pain started to go. My movement was returning and I started light training. With 2 weeks to go I started running and being able to bend.
With a week to go we had arranged a post torch party and all my friends family and fellow club members were invited, it was buzzing everyone was talking about it, my outfit arrived and I found out that I was running around the corner from my house and passing the First Minister’s house – what an honour! Because my moment of glory was in my home vicinity all my friends and family could be there.
The night before I came home from my swimming session, laid out my outfit on my chair in my room, and lay on my bed thinking what tomorrow would bring. I was so excited, it was going to be my day, my moment to be part of team GB.
It was chaos in my house that morning, cooking and cleaning, banners being erected all for me and my Olympic dream. I was so pleased. 11 o’clock came so I had a shower and put on all my gleaming white torch kit. It was time for me, my mum and my grampa to walk with pride to our destination point where my moment would begin. I was then left with all my fellow torchbearers, some I knew. Kieran McKenzie, a fellow swimmer in my squad, who I would be passing the flame to and “Dai Splash”, a fellow member of my lifesaving club.
After many photos we got on to the bus. Everyone was waving and cheering as soon as we got on the road, it was awesome. I saw loads of people I knew, they waved and I waved back, it was amazing. The bus started to climb Park Street, I was next. I was announced to the crowd with my torch in my hand and I proudly jumped off the bus to a roar from the crowd. I was greeted by my mum, sister, close family and friends. I seemed to know everyone around me and there were cameras every where. The atmosphere was electric; I was so honoured to be there. I was going to do a good job and make Bridgend and the Olympics proud. Then I saw the blue lights approaching – here comes Kevin with his lit torch – here we go!
I walked then jogged then ran with this torch and THE Olympic flame in my hands. The sun was shining and everyone was clapping and shouting. This was the best day of my life – I would never ever forget it and I felt so privileged to be sharing this moment with my family, friends, town, country and even the world. I ran down the hill where my dad was frantically taking photos, trying to savour the moment. I could see Kieran waiting for me – it was so lovely to be passing this honour to my swimming mate. The torches joined and my job was done and my journey was over. Thank you Coca Cola and London 2012.