May 21 2013 Latest news:
by Frances Leate and Lisa Kashinsky
Sunday, April 22, 2012
From a drug-using alcoholic to community champion, there is no doubt that Bob Groves is a London cab driver who has dramatically transformed his life.
After battling years of drink and drug abuse, the 50-year-old turned his back on his demons in an attempt to save himself from a dangerously unhealthy lifestyle.
Smoking up to 60 cigarettes a day and going on drink and drugs binges that would last for days, Bob was the last person you would expect to be asked to be an Olympic torchbearer.
But just seven years after his lowest point – where he would get breathless just walking up a flight of stairs – the now keen runner has been asked to represent Haringey as one of 22 “inspirational” people carrying the Olympic Torch through the borough this summer.
Starting by working out at his local gym, Hornsey YMCA Fitness Centre in Crouch End, he became a regular entrant in the YMCA’s annual 10k run and has completed two London Marathons.
But raising thousands for charity and shedding four stones in weight were not enough. Now he often talks to addicts in prison about how he changed his life through exercise.
The modest cabbie, of Campsfield Road, Hornsey, admits to being embarrassed at the prospect of carrying the torch after his mother-in-law nominated him for the honour without his knowledge.
He said: “I like doing what I do without being in the spotlight; all I have really done is grow up and sort myself out. Once I got clean I wanted to help other people so it went from there.
“I was a bit embarrassed by the idea of carrying the torch but now I’ve heard I get to keep it afterwards I’m quite excited!”
Each torchbearer will have the chance to buy an exclusive full-size replica of the torch, not available to anyone else.
Also carrying the torch through Haringey will be women’s football stalwart June Clarke.
When her 12-year-old “football mad” daughter Dom introduced her to the sport, Ms Clarke thought her participation would be fleeting.
But, more than a decade later, Ms Clarke is so embedded in community football she too has been selected as a torchbearer.
She said: “I felt and do feel proud but at the same time I am really nervous! This will be something that my children and grandchildren can talk about, and my claim to fame.”
Ms Clarke, of Amersham Avenue, Tottenham, became the kit washer for Tottenham Hotspur Ladies when her daughter joined the team, and moved on to become a reserve team manager, helping propel the senior team into the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division.
The 50-year-old said: “I thought it would be a one-off but 12 years later she is still playing and the club has grown stronger.”
Ms Clarke now holds multiple administrative positions at the club and with the Greater London Women’s Football League.