Six of Staffordshire’s best sporting talents are being inducted into the Stoke-on-Trent Sporting Hall of Fame.
A ceremony is taking place this evening at the Civic Centre in Stoke when Lord Mayor cllr Dr Chandra Kanneganti will welcome the stars and officially unveil the new additions to the honours board.
Olympic long-jumper Jazmin Sawyers, Port Vale’s record goalscorer Tom Pope, para-canoeist Ian Marsden, para-dressage legend Sir Lee Pearson CBE, Olympic triple jumper Ben Williams and sprinter Ashleigh Nelson will join the city’s sporting greats including Gordon Banks, Sir Stanley Matthews and Eddie Hall who are among the names already bestowed the honorary accolade.
Tom Pope has fulfilled every fan’s dream by playing for and captaining his boyhood club which he has described as his ‘proudest moment’.
Earning the nicknames ‘The Pontiff’ and ‘Sneyd Green Sniper’, Tom scored 115 goals in 343 league and cup appearances for the Valiants, making him the club’s record post-War goalscorer. No one has scored more goals at Port Vale's home ground of Vale Park than Tom Pope.
British track and field athlete Jazmin Sawyers, finished eighth in the Women's Long Jump at the Tokyo Olympics, recording a personal best of 6.80m in the event.
As well as winning a European Championships Silver medal and making two Olympic Games finals, Jazmin’s musical and singing skills also lead to an appearance on TVs The Voice.
Sir Lee Pearson CBE is a 14-time Paralympic Games gold medallist having represented the British para-equestrian team in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, Rio, and Tokyo in a decorated career - winning 30 gold medals at European, World and Paralympic level.
Former World and European Powerlifting champion and holder of three world records, Ian Mardsen, started out as an able-bodied athlete representing Team GB before he became a wheelchair user in 1992 following a sporting accident.
After a long spell in hospital, he went on to race on the European Handcycling Circuit where he became the first British man to claim a podium position before being placed on the fast track programme for London 2012 in Target Shooting and the 10m air rifle.
He is now a full-time athlete on the Paracanoe programme, winning Bronze in the KL1 200m at the event’s debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games before claiming silver at the 2017 European Championships and 4th place at the World Championships.
Sprint star Ashleigh Nelson is a match for anyone on the track having first been selected for Beijing 2008 and subsequently travelling to Rio 2016.
In 2019, she won silver in the 4x100m relay at the World Championships in Doha, backing up a bronze in the same event in 2013. Her selection for the 4x100m relay team at Tokyo came off the back of several previous triumphs with personal bests of 11.19 secs (2014) in the 100m and 22.85secs (2019) in the 200m.
Former IAAF World Youth Championships Triple Jump champion and current British champion Ben Williams, has battled numerous knee injuries throughout his career, but hit the Tokyo 2020 qualifying standard. He went on to jump 16.77m at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in September.
Councillor Lorraine Beardmore, cabinet member for leisure, culture and public health, said: “It’s fantastic to see more local but nationally recognised sporting stars doing our city proud in the sporting world.
“We have so much talent here in Stoke-on-Trent and a very rich sporting history and so it’s right that we celebrate that talent and success - I hope that their successes will encourage others around the city to work hard and follow their dreams, and I hope to one day see their names representing our great city!
“Last year during the pandemic, we were unable to add any new names to our Sporting Hall of Fame, but now the time feels right that we honour our sporting heroes in this way and I couldn’t be happier to see six more names added to the illustrious list of heroes already on the board."
Football legend Sir Stanley Matthews and 15-time world darts champion Phil Taylor were the first inductees in January 2010.
The city's Sporting Hall of Fame includes: Phil Taylor – Darts; Sir Stanley Matthews CBE – Football; Gordon Banks OBE – Football; Roy Sproson – Football; David Steele – Cricket; Angela Smith – Squash; Imran Sherwani – Hockey; Les West – Cycling; Roy Swinnerton – Cycling; Bob Taylor – Cricket; Tommy Godwin – Cycling; John Rudge – Football; Neil Franklin – Football; Colin Askey – Football; Denis Smith – Football; Joe Deakin – Athletics; Tut Whalley – Boxing; Chris Edwards – Boxing; Jenny Booth – Swimming; Dennis Wilshaw – Football; Tony Waddington – Football; Robbie Earle – Football; Eddie Hall – Worlds strongest man; Mark Bright – Football and Roy Price – Bowls.