1. ITV Report

Former Olympic athlete awarded Honorary Fellowship

Charlie Spedding (left) with University Chancellor Steve Cram Photo: ITV

A former Olympic athlete from the North East has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Sunderland.

Charlie Spedding, from Ferryhill in County Durham, won bronze in the marathon at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He's also the last British athlete to win a medal in the event.

The former Sunderland student has been honoured for his outstanding contribution to sport. He said: "I got a letter out of the blue about two or three months ago saying that they wanted to present me with this Honorary Fellowship for my contribution to sport, and as I'm an old boy of Sunderland, I was absolutely thrilled to accept.

"I'm guessing that they thought of me because it's an Olympic year."

Charlie studied at the university when it was known as Sunderland Polytechnic, and graduated in 1974. But despite pursuing a career in Pharmacy, he quit to focus on athletics in the early 1980's.

He was crowned National Champion in the 10,000 metres in 1983, before winning the London Marathon and an Olympic bronze medal following year. Charlie remains the English record holder for the fastest marathon time of 2 hours 8 minutes and 33 seconds.

After his running career finished, he founded his own pharmaceutical company and he also campaigns for school children to take part in more physical exercise.

Another former Olympian, Steve Cram, presented Charlie with his award. Cram, who is Chancellor for the University of Sunderland, said: "It's important for the other students to see people being successful later in their lives. So it was great to formally say well done to Charlie.

"We haven't won a medal in the men's or women's marathon since Charlie won his in 1984, and we might not for quite a while to come.

"I'm not even sure the North East sort of appreciate the great athlete he was. So hopefully today has gone some way to address that."

Among the other honoraries being given awards from the University this week are comedian Eddie Izzard, ITV Newsreader Alastair Stewart OBE, artist Norman Cornish, and The Customs House Executive Director, Ray Spencer MBE.