Brilliant Burnley Olympian Sophie Hitchon was feted for her heroics in a special ceremony at the Burnley Mechanics.
The talented former Wellfield and Ivy Bank High School pupil won a bronze medal in the hammer throw at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio with a personal best and a new British record – the first Brit to win an Olympic medal in that discipline.
Joined at the Mechanics by her family, friends and civic dignitaries, Sophie received a Certificate of Honour from the Mayor of Burnley, Coun. Jeff Sumner.
It was the latest award bestowed on the 25-year-old who won the nation’s hearts in Rio.
Indeed, there was plenty of drama for the Burnleyite in Brazil before she managed to secure her medal.
Sophie had a disappointing no-throw with her first attempt, before producing a seasonal best of 73.29m in the second round to move into third place.
Sophie, who splits her time between Loughborough and California, said she was delighted to be back home in Burnley among family and friends.
She said: “My mum told me we were going to the Mechanics but had kept the rest of it as a surprise. It was lovely to receive this honour from my town, which I don’t get to visit that often these days.
“It has been a whirlwind few weeks. Competing in Rio was a bit like being a bubble. The crowds were obviously different from London (2012) but since we’ve returned home I’ve felt that positive feeling again.”
It has been a busy few years for the athlete who is now looking forward to her next challenge – the World Championships to be held in London next year.
Sophie finished fourth in the World Championships last year, and fourth in the Europeans this year, but claimed a place on the podium in her second Olympics after a final throw of 74.54m, in dramatic style.
Mayor of Burnley Coun. Jeff Sumner praised Sophie in a speech in front of the invited guests which also included Burnley MP Julie Cooper and council leader Mark Townsend.
The Mayor said: “When Sophie became the first British woman to win an Olympic hammer medal, her delight was plain to see.
“People here in Burnley were so pleased too, and proud to see that this achievement also set a new British woman’s record.
“The leader of Burnley Council, Mark Townsend, lost no time in proposing that Sophie should be nominated for the town’s Certificate of Honour.
“This was of course immediately supported by all of the other councillors who were consulted, and by myself as Mayor.
“There are two reasons for awarding this certificate. One is Sophie’s achievement representing Great Britain at the Olympic Games.
“The other is her contribution to community work locally. Sophie is an ‘Up and Active’ ambassador. She works with Burnley Leisure and the Calico Group to get more women and girls involved in sport and exercise in the local area.
“Sophie’s achievements in the Rio Games provide further inspiration to encourage participation in physical activity.”
Sophie, whose parents Michael and Wendy still live in Burnley, was also presented with flowers by a current Wellfield pupil before posing for pictures with friends.