Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 13:22 UK

Golden girl brings pride to town

Heather Hinchley
BBC News, Mansfield

Children in the crowd
Adlington said she hoped her win would inspire future generations

Olympic golden girl Rebecca Adlington has been treated to a hero's welcome as she returned to her home town of Mansfield.

The former mining town in Nottinghamshire is not famous for its sporting heroes but the 19-year-old's victories in the 400 and 800m swimming freestyle events have brought about a swell of civic pride.

Mansfield's last taste of Olympic success came when runner John Wetton finished 8th in the 1500m at the Tokyo games in 1964.

So it is no surprise that Rebecca's record-breaking achievements have created a buzz which has been felt throughout the town.

Thousands of people with Union Jack flags and whistles lined the town centre on Tuesday evening to show their appreciation for the Olympic champion.

An open-top bus tours the town

Linda Bennett, 51, from Mansfield Woodhouse, went to the Civic Centre to greet Rebecca - she gave the five-year-old her first swimming lesson at Sherwood Baths.

"I'm just so proud of her. You could tell as she swam her first length that she was something special.

"She has worked so hard and deserves her success."

Reg Youd, 67, from Debdale Lane in Mansfield said he hoped the champion's success would inspire other young people to sporting success.

"We're so pleased with what she's done. I hope it will encourage the kids in Mansfield to get into sport and do well."

It was first class treatment all the way for Rebecca, who arrived at the town's Civic Centre in a golden Rolls Royce.

The shoe fanatic was overjoyed as she was presented with a pair of golden peep-toe Jimmy Choos - a reward which had been promised to her by the town's mayor Tony Egginton before she left for China.

Rebecca Adlington on the bus
The crowds slowed the open top bus to a crawl
Mr Egginton said: "To reach the very top of any sport requires years of hard work, focus and complete dedication - all traits which Rebecca has in abundance.

"What's more, this success couldn't have happened to a nicer girl. Rebecca is a credit to herself, her family and Mansfield - both in and out of the pool."

The waiting crowds were treated to a glimpse of the swimmer on an open top bus as she was paraded through the town ahead of a celebration before the Old Town Hall.

Irene Evason from Mansfield Woodhouse, said: "Rebecca has done fantastically well. It's great to put Mansfield on the map.

"I've just taken up swimming at the age of 69 and Rebecca is going to spur me on to keep it up."

Diane Blakemore from Mansfield Woodhouse said: "This is so great for Mansfield and it's nice to see the town in the news for a positive reason.

"She has done this for the whole town and we're all so thrilled with her achievements."

Town welcomes Olympic gold hero
27 Aug 08 |  Nottinghamshire
In Pictures: Rebecca Adlington returns
26 Aug 08 |  In Pictures

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