GALLERY: Louis Smith waltzes into Fenland but says: ‘Before I’m a dancer or a celebrity, I’m an Olympian’

15:41 04 January 2013

Barclays Spaces for Sport, Louis Smith at the Manor Leisure centre, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams

Barclays Spaces for Sport, Louis Smith at the Manor Leisure centre, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams

Archant

WHEN Louis Smith made an appearance in the Fens today he was keen to stress it was not as a celebrity or a dancer - it was as an Olympian and a role model.

The 23-year-old signed autographs, answered questions and even had a kick-about with AFC Whittlesey Girls Under-16s at the Manor Leisure Centre, in Whittlesey, this morning.

And while his crowd of admirers may have been clamouring for tales of foxtrots and jives, Louis was proud to be an Olympic silver medallist first and a Strictly Come Dancing winner second.

“Strictly was brilliant but it will fade,” he said.

“The London 2012 Olympic games will never fade. I will remember them for the rest of my life and I’m sure others will. I trained 19 years for that.

Floody hell

OLYMPIC hero Louis Smith arrived at the promotional event in Whittlesey more than an hour late - because of the flooded B1040.

Louis’ entourage tried to get to the Manor Leisure Centre from Peterborough, where he attended a similar event, using the B1040 from Thorney.

But he didn’t realise it was closed due to flooding - and as a result he was forced into a detour.

Fenland Councillor Gary Swan, who attended the visit, said: “People, including a girls football team, gave up their time to be there and the poor guy couldn’t get there.

“They didn’t know the road was closed. It must be to do with signage from Peterborough.

“It just goes to show again that the road infrastructure in Whittlesey is not good enough. Everybody has got to start realising that the infrastructure in the town needs improving.

“Myself and other members of the town council have endless phone calls about it.”

Louis said: “I had seen the flood plains come up in the past and I remember that field used to ice over but I’d never seen it flood like that before!”

“When I was younger I used to be quite scared of dying because I wanted to be remembered for something great. I wanted a five-minute package on the local news because I had done something remarkable.

“Before I’m a dancer or a celebrity, I’m an Olympian.”

Louis, who grew up in Eye, near Peterborough, made his visit to Whittlesey as part of the Barclays Spaces for Sports programme.

The scheme, which helped fund multi-use games courts at the Manor, aims to use sport to help young people develop life skills and revitalise disadvantaged communities.

The big questions

Quizzed by players from AFC Whittlesey Girls Under-16s, Louis Smith faced some interesting and, slightly unconventional, questions.

• How was Strictly Come Dancing?

“I had a great time but it was hard work. I didn’t do that sort of dancing before - just a bit of nightclub stuff. I probably did more training for Strictly than I did gymnastics.”

• What’s your favourite vegetable?

“I like roast carrots. That’s probably the strangest questions I’ve ever been asked.”

• Have you met the Queen?

“Yes. She was cool. She’s like a posh grandma.”

Louis said: “I love doing these visits. It’s just so different to what my life was like before.

“My life could have gone one of two ways after the Olympics. I could have messed up and everything could have gone quiet - but it’s turned out fantastic.

“Years ago I was in the same position as some of these youngsters. I used to play in the park and go skating so I understand how important these facilities are.”

Louis narrowly missed out on pommel horse gold at London 2012, where he also secured a bronze in the team event. He was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list for his success.

But the gymnastics star admitted that thoughts of competing again at Rio 2016 seemed a long way off.

“My mindset is very much business orientated at the moment,” he said. “I’ve got to think about my future.

“I’m only 23 but that’s getting towards the end of my career in terms of sport. That’s a fact. There are no real top level gymnasts over the age of 26. I have to be sensible and look at other options.

“I go on the Strictly Come Dancing tour at the end of February and then I’ll get back in the gym.”

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