SUNDERLAND’S only Olympic medallist has spoken of his disappointment that he won’t be carrying the Games’ torch when it passes through the city this summer.
Former Farringdon School pupil Tony Jeffries, who won bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, has been told he’s applied too late to be considered as one of the city’s torch bearers.
Iconic Penshaw Monument will form the backdrop when the famous flame travels through Sunderland as part of a national tour ahead of its arrival in London.
It will pass through the city on June 16 and a number of events are in the pipeline to mark the historic event.
Speaking from Los Angeles where he now lives, Tony said: “I am gutted that I won’t be the one carrying the Olympic Torch when it hits the North East this summer, especially when it passes through our city of Sunderland.
“Without trying to sound big-headed, I’m Sunderland’s first and only Olympic medallist from any sport. Also I’m officially a proud ambassador of the city.”
He added: “I’ve been bringing national TV to the city whenever I have fought here, four times as a professional and once as an amateur.”
The torch will be carried by an estimated 8,000 people, chosen by a national body from applications, who have inspired the community where they live.
Although the torch-bearers have been informed of their role, they are still undergoing security checks before a public announcement is made.
Tony, 26, said: “I would definitely fly back from USA to do that as I know I won’t be fighting at that time. I asked my sister to try and get confirmation about it so I could try and book a flight.
“She emailed a few people at the city council who said that the people who are carrying the torch already know who they are.
“They had to apply by the end of December 2011, so it was out of the council’s hands, but the lady on the email and said they would still like me to be part of it in some way.
“I know Wayne McCullough, who won a silver in the 1988 Olympics in boxing, is flying home to his city in Northern Ireland to carry the torch and rightly so.
“I feel a bit daft for automatically thinking they would have chosen me.”
Last year, an announcement about the flame’s route sparked outrage when Sunderland appeared to have been missed out.
The Echo was then joined by politicians, sports personalities and people from across Wearside in calling for the torch to visit the city.
Eventually Olympic chief Lord Coe stepped in and confirmed the route would take in the region’s biggest city.
The 70-day Olympic Torch Relay starts at Land’s End, Cornwall, on May 19.
It will take in an estimated 8,000 miles and 1,000 villages, towns and cities along the way.