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Published on : Monday, April 25, 2016
Four Special Olympic gold medal winners from the North East travelled to London on a newly refurbished Virgin Trains service from Durham to mix with their Premier League idols at the 43rd PFA Awards tonight.The four, who all play for County Durham-based club Beamish Dynamos, were members of the Great Britain football team which won gold medals at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles last year.
They have been invited to the Professional Football Association’s gala annual event as guests of its Chief Executive Gordon Taylor, while Virgin Trains has stepped in to ensure they could travel in style.
Bobby Coltman, who coaches the Dynamos and the GB team, said: “The club is incredibly proud of the lads and their achievement as a British team which not only won a Gold medal in the football event, but did so through winning a penalty shoot out!
“Gordon Taylor has personally invited the squad to what is seen as the top night of the year in British football. We’re grateful to Gordon and the PFA for this tremendous gesture and for Virgin Trains for taking the lads to London for an event with some of the biggest stars of the professional game.”
Gordon Taylor OBE said that he had met the Special Olympics football squad at a reception at the US Embassy in London ahead of the Games last year, “and had promised them that if they won they would be our special guests at the PFA Awards”.
“We also spoke to Steven Gerrard of LA Galaxy who tweeted his support for the team in Los Angeles,” he added: “Even if they had not won but had still given their best they would have been our special guests at the awards.”
The four gold medal winners are: GB captain Andy Hetherington, 28, from Stanley; Alex Sawyer Copus, 18, from Houghton-le-Spring; Michael MacGurk, 20, from Leadgate; Brad Whitfield, 20, from Annfield Plain.
Sunderland fan Alex said: “My time during the Games was such an amazing experience. To play 11-a-side football representing Great Britain is what every kid dreams about.”Brad, a Newcastle United fan, said he was looking forward to the PFA awards, adding: “Winning the Olympic gold medal was the greatest thing I have achieved, a dream come true.”
Jennie Pitt, People Engagement Manager for Virgin Trains, said: “We’re delighted to support these gold medal winners from communities on our east coast route by taking them down to London in style for the biggest night in the football calendar.”