Hereford & Worcester

London 2012: Teacher's Games starter role 'a privilege'

Margaret Werrett
Image caption Margaret Werrett will manage the team of starters and starters' assistants during the Paralympics

When Britain's Christine Ohuruogu won an Olympic silver medal in the 400m final on Sunday, a Worcestershire chemistry teacher played her part.

Away from fume cupboards and gas taps, Bromsgrove School's Margaret Werrett had the honour of firing the starting gun in the final.

She is one of four people selected by UK Athletics and London 2012 organisers Locog to start races in the Olympic Stadium during the athletics competition.

After watching Ohuruogu cross the line in second place, the 51-year-old teacher said: "That was very exciting.

"It was really nice to see a British athlete come through on the race that you started."

Image caption Christine Ohuruogu was beaten by American Sanya Richards-Ross

Mrs Werrett has never officiated at an Olympics before, but is expecting to start up to eight events - including the men's 1,500m - during a "mind-blowing" experience at London 2012.

The mother of two has previously been involved in other roles at major sporting events, including Manchester's Commonwealth Games in 2002 and Birmingham's World Indoor Championships in 2003.

She qualified as a starter at the age of 22 after first being inspired by a teacher.

Mrs Werrett said: "My PE teacher [at school] in Scotland was chief starter in Scotland.

"He never got me for a false start on the athletics track, but he did in the swimming pool.

'Wall of sound'

"He lectured me on the side of the swimming pool when I was cold and wet and dripping before I was allowed to swim a race very badly - I was far better on foot than in the pool.

"I've always wanted to do it since then."

Ohuruogu was beaten by American Sanya Richards-Ross on the same day Jamaican Usain Bolt also triumphed.

But Mrs Werrett reckoned there was more atmosphere when Britons Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford achieved success on the previous evening.

The teacher, from Droitwich, said: "I've never heard a wall of sound like it.

"They made more noise for the British athletes on Saturday evening in my opinion than when Usain Bolt won the 100m."

The sound of the electronic starting gun fired by Mrs Werrett and her colleagues is played through loudspeakers in the back of the starting blocks so that all the athletes hear it at the same time.

The teacher added: "If we had to use a non-electronic starting pistol, then because of the speed of sound and the distance the athletes are away from the starter, then there's been lots of papers written to say that the athletes on the outside lane are at a very slight disadvantage."

Mrs Werrett had her role confirmed after the final test event in May, after previously being assessed at major meetings.

She will have more responsibility at the forthcoming Paralympics starting on 29 August, when she will manage the team of starters and starters' assistants.

She also hopes to officiate at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the city where she was born.

As a global audience enjoys the Olympics, Mrs Werrett reflected on the "tremendous privilege" of being given her role.

She said: "The team of officials that we've got here are so good. It's just like a huge family."

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