Updated: Wednesday, 22nd November 2017 @ 5:30pm

Unsung heroes hailed in Manchester Olympic Torch relay alongside Sir Bobby Charlton and Chris Hoy

Unsung heroes hailed in Manchester Olympic Torch relay alongside Sir Bobby Charlton and Chris Hoy

By Ben Burrows

Community heroes rather than celebrity faces will be at the heart of the Olympic Torch relay through Manchester today.

While there will be several celebrity appearances – four-time gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton chief among them – but it will be the unsung heroes who will take centre stage.

British Airways pilot Peter Burkill is one of those chosen to carry the ancient flame and his story is one of many that are sure to inspire those who brave the heavy forecasted rain on Saturday.

Burkill saved 152 lives in January 2008 when his instinctive decision to adjust the flaps on the BA38 flight from Beijing to Heathrow meant the plane was able to land safely.

His nomination story for the relay described him as an ambassador for all 3000 pilots in the company.

“Captain Burkill is the instantly recognisable face and symbol of all that is good about British Airways,” his nominator said.

Another unsung hero who will be charged with carrying the torch is 14-year-old Jonathan Whitehead who has raised thousands for Epilepsy Action UK by organising long-distance bike rides.

Jonathan is a sufferer himself and wanted to help those with worse forms of the condition.

At the age of 12 Jonathan rode from Southport to Hornsea – a distance of 215 miles!

His nominator said: “He was really brave and in order to raise more money, he faced telling people about his condition, which he had been fearful of, since the name calling at Primary school.”

Carl Tilson, of Manchester, who suffers with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, is the grandson of Frank Tilson Snr who famously scored the winning goal for Manchester City on the 1934 FA Cup final.

He works tirelessly to raise the profile of the muscle-wasting condition and was last year voted Mancunian of the Year ahead of the likes of Ryan Giggs and Gary Barlow.

Other notable torchbearers are Sue Blaycock, founder of cycling club Wythenshawe Wheelers, and Geoff Cooke who has been a part of British cycling for over 50 years both competing and coaching.

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