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Hereford judo ace Stan Cantrill gave Olympic torch tips to Sir Steve Redgrave
SIR Steve Redgrave’s arrival at the Olympic Stadium with the Olympic Torch was one of the highlights of the Games’ opening ceremony.
But it was a Hereford man who gave him some tips on how to carry the torch.
Judo player and fellow torch-bearer Stan Cantrill was in Salford being interviewed by the BBC Breakfast programme when he met the great Olympian, who was also a studio guest.
“It was after I had carried the torch but before Sir Steve had and he was asking me about it,” said Cantrill. “I told him that I had my torch-bearer’s handbook with me and he asked me to go and have a coffee and a chat.”
The honour of carrying the torch through Hereford back on May 24 was recognition, in part, of a judo career which goes back more than half-a-century.
His life-long love affair with the sport started during his teenage days.
“Cricket was too slow; there was no 20/20 in those days, it was just played to the bitter end,” said the 67-year-old. “I had a go at football and rugby – I did quite well at rugby and played for Walsall Colts but then I was introduced to judo.
“I was just a kid when I started but I stopped to do my qualifications and exams.
“Then I started again and next year I will have been doing judo for 50 years without a break.”
Cantrill was in the GB squad until he was 32 and fought alongside such famous names in the sport as Brian Jacks, Arthur Mapp and Dave Starbrook as well as Neil Adams.
“The British team were world champions,” he said. “Judo was very successful then.
“I was second fiddle to Brian Jacks. But I would have had to have joined the army or moved to London to really progress – Neil Adams had to go to London, he was a Coventry boy, but at that time all of judo revolved around London.
“I had quite a good job with Rover and so my coach said just to enjoy it.”
Cantrill arrived in Hereford in 1972 when the city’s Judo Club was based in the Nissen huts in Grandstand Road.
But, despite his four decades in the city, he self-deprecatingly admits that his knowledge of Hereford was shown up to be not as great as he believed earlier this year.
“When they told me I was carrying the Olympic Torch in Victoria Street, I had to go and look up where that was,” he said.
“For all of the time that I’ve been in Hereford, I did not realise that the main A49 through the city was called Victoria Street.”
His judo career really took off again at the age of 51.
“In 1998, they started this World Masters Championship and it has taken me all over the world,” he said. “It costs me nothing, all my air fares and entry fees are paid.
“I’ve been to places that I hardly even knew were there like Singapore and Mauritius.
“The best trip I have had was to Japan – if my house was burning down, I would save the bronze medal I got from the Kodokan, the home of judo.”
But it’s not just as a competitor that the sport has a hold on the former Herefordshire Sport Sportsman- of-the-Year.
He is a qualified referee and coach as well as working on the administrative side of judo.
“I’m the Welsh representative for the Great Britain Masters Commission and I’m on the board of directors for Welsh Judo as well,” he said. “I was a director in charge of events at the last Welsh Open, too.”
But judo has had to take something of back seat this summer as Cantrill has thrown himself into voluntary work with the Olympics and Paralympics.
“The summer has gone like a flash, starting off in May with carrying the torch,” he said.
“I went to the rehearsals for the opening ceremony and I had a ball.
“I went to Cardiff for the football, to Weymouth for the sailing and, obviously, I went to see the judo at the Excel in London.
“I am a sports therapist and so, for the Paralympics, I worked in the Poly clinic.We worked two shifts, from 6.30am to 7pm and they gave us tickets for the athletics. I was almost trackside when Oscar Pistorius was beaten by the Brazilian Alan Oliveira.
“I’ve got that on my phone as a video-clip. There are some fabulous memories.”
Judo resumes its hold on Cantrill next month when he heads off to the World Masters in Miami, aiming to add to more than 70 medals that he has won in national and international competition over the last decade-and-a-half.
And it’s clear that the sport still has him firmly in its grip. “When you stand on the podium, you don’t know whether to laugh, cry or wet yourself. I’ve done the first two but I’ve not wet myself yet,” he laughed.
“The feeling when you step on the mat is one you just can’t describe – I’ve never taken drugs but maybe it is the same sort of euphoria, especially when you win.”
There are certainly no thoughts of calling a halt to playing the sport that he loves.
“I asked Neil Adams how long I should go on for and he said carry on until you start losing drastically,” he said. “But, touch wood, it’s going quite well at the moment.”
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