Norfolk’s best crowned at Village Games final at Sportspark
Norfolk's sportiest villages were crowned today, at the end of a competition involving more than 16,000 people and 181 teams.
The Norfolk Village Games, organised by Active Norfolk, finished in style in Norwich as the 30 finalists in the three categories went head to head to be named the best in the county.
More than 2,500 people packed the Sportspark at the University of East Anglia to watch athletes aged from eight to 80 battle it out in archery, table tennis, short mat bowls, darts, football, rounders, athletics, badminton, tennis, darts and fitness triathlon.
There were victories for west Norfolk in the small and medium village categories, with Docking and Terrington St Clement respectively emerging victorious, while Diss and Roydon claimed the large village title.
The finals were opened by Olympic judo player Colin Oates, who delivered a motivational speech to participants, and archer Amy Oliver, who shot balloons on a target to mark the start of competition.
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She said she had enjoyed last year's event so much she had decided to come back again.
'It's so nice to see everyone competing and it's a lot of fun.
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'I spent a lot of time watching all the sports going on and there are some good players out there, especially in the tennis.
She added: 'But I was a bit nervous shooting the balloons - it was probably more nerve-racking that the Olympics!'
Mr Oates, who finished seventh in his judo class at London 2012 encouraged all the finalists in his speech, before spending the day cheering on his home village of the Lophams.
He said the Village Games were a chance for communities to bond together and for lesser-known sports to attract new participants.
'It's nice for those sports like archery, badminton and table tennis to get the recognition, because they are just as tough as sports like football, but don't always get the attention. It's great to see them get a big push,' said Mr Oates, who finished seventh at London 2012.
'Events like the Village Games are so important because they get people out and enjoying physical activity. We hear so many bad reports about obesity, but it's days like this which can get children into sport and make the difference.'
Ellen Vanlint, sports development officer for Active Norfolk, said: 'This is the fourth year of the Village Games and is the biggest so far.
'The games are designed to develop opportunities to play sport in rural Norfolk.
'London 2012 was massive but we have kept that going and the games have got even bigger this year.'
Ms Vanlint said the standard of competition had risen with each staging of the games, and villages bringing more athletes every year.
The event is open to villages for free, but sponsors are being sought to make sure the Village Games can continue beyond next year, when funding from Sport England runs out.
Clair Burrows was competing for Aslacton and Great Moulton, the defending champions in the small village category, and said the Village Games had brought people in the villages together.
'We've had a trophy cabinet built specially in our village because we won last year, and we've had a presentation evening for the team too. It's something that so many people have got involved in.
'So many people in the villages have got to know each other through the Village Games.
Mrs Burrows said the chance to take part as families was important – whether cheering along with a picnic or competing, as her husband Nick and children Lewis, 13, and Neve, 10, did for the village's rounders team.
'There aren't many sports where they can all compete together and have fun.
'It's also good for rediscovering old sports. I hadn't picked up my table tennis bat for 25 years, but this has made me pick up my bat again. That's what it's all about – and it's got a lot of people off the sofa.'