VIDEO: Olympics star Ann Packer backs bid for Congleton sports centre
OLYMPIC gold medal winner Ann Brightwell is hoping to inspire the next generation of talented young athletes through a £3 million community sports centre.
The former 800-metre runner – who won gold under her maiden name Packer in the 1964 Games in Tokyo – has teamed up with Eaton Bank Academy, in Congleton to bring the dream to life.
Ann and her husband Robbie Brightwell, who live in the town, visited the school last year and were struck by its need for new sports facilities.
Now a campaign has been launched to raise money for the new venue at Eaton Bank.
It will help nurture the talents of young sports stars and also be used by local clubs.
But the driving force behind the plans is to get families across the town more involved in sport and exercise so they can lead healthier lifestyles.
The Ann Packer Centre Of Sporting Excellence is designed to be the perfect Olympic legacy for Congleton.
Ann said: "I was very honoured when they asked if they could name the centre after me.
"If we can help in any way to promote the whole concept, we will. We are thinking about what the community needs in the long term.
"The facilities can be used at evenings and weekends. Disabled people will use them as well."
The plans include a multi-use sports hall, dance studio and fitness suite.
Outside, there will be synthetic pitches for football, hockey and rugby, a grass pitch, a running track, netball and tennis courts, and floodlighting.
At the moment, the school has a 40-year-old sports hall which also doubles up as an exams hall.
It has no all-weather playing surfaces outdoors at all.
Ann can still recall her own school days growing up in Berkshire, where the encouragement from her teachers spurred her on to take up competitive sport.
She went on to break three world records in five days at the height of her career.
Husband Robbie, a councillor in Congleton, believes Ann is the ideal role model.
But he stressed the project was about more than just promoting sport.
He said: "Obesity is set to bankrupt the national health within 10 years. Instead of doing exercise, schoolchildren have become a media generation.
"If we can project national trends onto Congleton, close to 12,000 people will be classified as obese or overweight.
"In our primary schools, that's 658 children and, in our secondary schools, it's 482."
The campaign team are planning to apply for grants and pupils and staff are also involved in fund-raising activities.