Olympic fever has officially hit the UK after a weekend of success whether on water, wheels, or in track and field. But has it reached the blood and veins of people of Blackpool and the Fylde? And, more importantly, can the achievements of the nation’s athletes inspire a new golden generation from the Golden Mile?
Howard Henshaw, just like hundreds of millions across the globe, was transfixed to his TV on Saturday night to bear witness to what has been described as the most successful night in the history of British athletics.
The nation looked on with delight as first heptathlete Jessica Ennis, then compatriots long jumper Greg Rutherford and long distance specialist Mo Farah claimed their place in athletic immortality and achieved sport’s greatest prize.
Howard, as awestruck as the rest of us when the ore of gleaming gold was hung around the trio’s necks, had just one word for it - “incredible”.
For Howard, a track and field veteran of almost half a century, the evening’s drama means more than just a temporary feel good factor for the nation in a summer where appalling weather has drained our collective spirit.
The Games appear to have inspired the next generation of would-be stars to lace up their running shoes and try their luck at the Blackpool, Wyre & Fylde Athletics Club, of which he is the serving President.
“It’s going down very well and I think most of the people I’ve spoken to have said they’re glued to their screens at the moment.”
“We’ve noticed quite an increase in awareness of the sport and more people are interested, and with the momentum of what’s been going on I think it will stay – it’s a great boost for us.”
The club boasts around 200 young members at present, and includes the town’s only representative in London among its alumni, shot putter Carl Myerscough.
While he unfortunately failed to progress to the final of his event, Howard believes Blackpool can still be proud of its sole Olympian.
“It’s a pity about what happened to Carl, but the shot put is a funny sort of event. On his day he could have won it, and I think he’ll be pleased to know that the winning distance was actually three centimetres less than his own personal best.”
In the velodrome Britain’s two wheeled wonders have once again excelled, a “marvellous” effort according to cycling enthusiast Les Cross, Vice President of the Cleveleys Road Club.
He said: “The team which has been put together promised a lot and it has certainly delivered.”
Among those delivering gold medals in abundance has been Lancashire-based Bradley Wiggins, with who a number of Les’ club mates have come into contact in recent years.
“A lot of them ride in time trial races (the discipline Wiggins won in London) and several of them have raced against before. I think they’re well inspired by watching him, the way he rides is phenomenal.”
But it’s not just the competitive element of cycling Les believes could inspire Fylde coast folk to take up the sport.
“It’s often said cyclists look 10 years younger,” he said.
“I don’t know if that’s true but the benefits are there to see for anyone who’s been cycling continuously and regularly.
“Getting out on the bike is both relaxing and healthy.”
Such sentiments are echoed by Howard Henshaw, who first began competing in track events aged 16 in 1956.
“I’ve never had one day off sick in 25 years of work. How many people can honestly say that? It was all down to that athletic lifestyle, and it’s one of the few sports you can keep up for your whole life.”
“I went to school with Jimmy Armfield and I know Bill Beaumont, and even though I’m more than 10 years older than Bill I’m much fitter than him!”
The gymnasium has also been a rich source of medals for Great Britain during the games, albeit in the silver and bronze hues. Sarah Oxley, of Gym Mania Gymnastics, in Fleetwood, is revelling in the effect London 2012 has had on her club’s membership levels.
She said: “There have been lots of people asking for places for both boys and girls, our waiting list has been filling up quite dramatically.”
Sarah, who also teaches Year Two at St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School, in Cleveleys, is confident that the examples set by the athletes at the Games can inspire children to achieve success through hard work and dedication, rather than taking their cues from celebrity culture.
“It’s about realising that when things go wrong you get yourself up and try again,” she said.
“Hopefully these Games will get everybody into sport and volunteering, then who knows what we could achieve as a nation?”
For Les, the lessons that youngsters should take from the stars on show in Stratford is simple - enjoy your sport.
“A lot of our riders have been to the top competitions but whatever standard you are you should still enjoy what you’re doing, that’s the main thing.”
* For more information on how you can get involved contact Cleveleys RC contact secretary Steve Whiteside on (01253) 767921, Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde AC secretary Nick Hume on (01253) 868656 or Gym Mania’s Sarah Oxley on 07731 338 122.