Pakefield teenager excited by his torch run

AS teenager Sam Hills proudly carried the Olympic torch this week, the hundreds of people watching him from the roadside would have been unaware that only 18 months ago he was left housebound.

But as the 14-year-old from Pakefield carried the flame through Market Deeping in Lincolnshire, there was no sign of how his life had been blighted by glandular fever and then debilitating post-viral syndrome/ME.

Sam, who goes to Bungay High School and plays for Kirkley and Pakefield Football Club, was nominated to carry the torch by his mother Sue. She contacted the organisers of the London 2012 games and put his name forward as a torch bearer after he battled back from his illness, which affected him between 2008 and 2010.

And Sam's big day had an unexpected surprise as he waited for his proud moment.

The person who was carrying the torch before him – a blind woman – had to finish early, leaving Sam to tackle an extra-length run.

'I had to run back to get the torch. The lady was blind and I think her guide dog kept trying to take her to the path.'

Speaking as he watched the Lowestoft leg of the torch relay at Ness Point yesterday, Sam said the whole experience had been amazing.

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Sam, who used to go to Pakefield Middle School, missed large chunks of school, had to give up playing sport and missed spending time with his friends. However, because of his 'true grit and determination', Sam is now fighting fit again and hopes to rise through the ranks of his local football team.

Sam said: 'I was shocked when I found out my mum had put me forward as a torch bearer. When we found out I had won a place I felt very lucky to be picked and a bit nervous and excited as well.'

Sam was not selected to carry the torch through Lowestoft because of the demand for places. Instead, he was given part of the Lincolnshire leg of the relay on Wednesday, where he was cheered on by his family.

On her nomination form to the Olympic organisers, Mrs Hills said: 'During 2008-2010 Sam was very ill and missed months of school. He had had undetected glandular fever. The fever totally wiped out Sam's ability to be a normal 11 to 12-year-old. Sam's life was all of a sudden empty, lonely and painful.'

She added: 'True grit and self-determination got him to fully recover. Now he is back to sport with a vengeance.

Mrs Hills, 51, said: 'He has been modest about the whole thing and how it affected him. I am really, really proud of him. It is a real honour to be part of something he will remember for the rest of his life.'