ST HELENS has a new sporting hero after judo competitor Owen Livesey clinched a gold medal in Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games.
The triumph represents something of a sporting fairytale for Owen, who had spent 18 months out of the sport after becoming disillusioned at not being selected for the London 2012 Olympics.
But the Haresfinch lad – who had returned to playing rugby league with Widnes and amateurs Pilkington Recs during his break from judo – is putting down his golden moment to old fashioned hard work and determination.
The former fighter with Newton-le-Willows based SKK moved down to Camberley, Surrey, last year to train and resurrect his career.
After defeating England teammate Tom Reed in the -81kg category, he said: “All this goes down to hard work - I’ve moved away and given a lot up at home and trained really hard. I’m a great believer that you only get out what you put in.”
He went on to describe the victory as “the best day of my life to date”.
Leading figures from the town’s sporting, entertainment and political landscape have been lining up to salute the former Haydock High pupil.
Boxer Martin Murray sent a message on Twitter saying: “St Helens is proud of you.” And Saints, where Owen was a junior player, offered their congratulations.
Owen, who turns 23 this weekend, has been enjoying being a spectator for the remainder of the Games and is already eyeing his next challenge - making the Great Britain squad for the Olympics in 2016.
But there have been calls for him to receive a civic reception when he returns to his hometown.
He added: “I’ll have a couple of weeks to rest up before I start trying to get ranking points to qualify for Rio.
“But if I do get a call-up then I know now that this will help me a lot and will stand me in good stead for that.”
Meanwhile, 30-year-old Royal Marine Commando Chris Sherrington, who grew up in Billinge before settling in West Lothian with his Scottish wife Zoe, also took gold in the 100kg plus category.
Chris, who joined the forces aged 17, served in Iraq, and took up judo nine years ago.
He said: “It was absolutely fantastic standing on the podium. There were some armed forces personnel there to see me and it was great to have them there and my parents watching back in St Helens.”