Lizzy’s open top double-decker bus, which was organised by the District Council (as they had done previously in 2014), took in a pre-planned route through the towns and villages of the district including Sevenoaks, Bat and Ball, Otford, Shoreham, Eynsford, Farningham, Swanley, Horton Kirby and West Kingsdown on Wednesday 18th April.
On the Vine
St John’s Primary School certainly made the first impression on behalf of Sevenoaks Town as they gathered on the Vine in honour of Lizzie’s Olympic achievements for her double gold in the sport of Skeleton.
The Vine, which is one of the oldest cricket grounds in the country, was her first port of call on the Victory Bus tour around the area. 250 children and staff, plus a few parents, lined the street with their Union Jack flags, waving to her on the top deck of the bus as she slowly passed by. School governor, Edward Oatley said: “What a great way to start a school day, a relaxing and sunny 15-minute walk to make sure Lizzy’s day had the best possible start”.
At her first school stop, Lizzy sparkled in the sunshine as much as her gold medals. She spoke to pupils from Trinity, Weald and Riverhead Primary Schools about her achievements in Sochi and PyeongChang. Handing her 2014 gold medal to one of the pupils she asked the children to vote on their preferred choice, unsurprisingly they chose her 2018 medal as this is the most recent and one they saw her win on the television.
Otford pond and Russell House School
As the victory bus pulled into Otford a wave of cheering echoed around the village pond. Otford Primary School had lined up to wave their flags and chant “Lizzy! Lizzy!” as she smiled and waved back at them. Another lap around the pond and it was the turn of pupils from Russell House School, who had all come out to line the pavements as well.
Craig McCarthy, the headmaster of Russell House School said: “It was lovely to be able to have the school celebrate with the Golden Girl Lizzy Yarnold on such a beautiful day!”.
Eynsford high street
Back on the road, the Victory Bus passed by Shoreham station where a number of villagers and ramblers had come out to greet Lizzy, one notably shouting “You are such an inspiration!” to the top deck. The Anthony Roper School in Eynsford had joined with the local community as they lined up around 200m on both sides of the street to congratulate Lizzy.
Swanley market and Orchards Academy
The crowds were gathered in the market square in Swanley with notable attendances from Hextable and Hever Primary Schools. Lizzy met with the Mayor of Swanley, Cllr Laurence Ball before greeting her fans and spending time chatting and signing autographs. She even allowed members of the public to hold her medals and she wasn’t shy either, posing for photos with pretty much everyone she met.
It was then off to Orchards Academy in Swanley where Lizzy once again gave an inspirational speech to the pupils and staff who had assembled in the school hall, complete with a Lizzy Yarnold powerpoint presentation. You could almost feel the motivation spilling into the the room.
West Kingsdown Primary School
Headteacher of West Kingsdown Primary School, Sonia Phillips, had really got the pupils going at the final stop of the day. Chants of “Lizzy, Lizzy” could be heard streets away.
With another fantastic welcome by over 100 children, staff and parents, she again spoke to the children about being the best that they could be and to never give up on their dreams. Local carpenter, Terry Malone, then presented Lizzy with her own personal gold postbox to keep.
Dealing with the media
Part and parcel of having a Victory Bus parade is dealing with the number of media types invited to join the route. There were the notable big hitters from the BBC and Sky Sports with their cameras, along with BBC Radio Kent, KMTV, the Sevenoaks Chronicle and of course us, Sevenoaks Sports magazine.
The way she handled them all was outstanding and when we caught up with her, she spoke of her interest in the media saying: “I worked at the BBC in 2015 and would like to get some more work experience in the summer. It’s something that I would like to get into”.
The majority of the people who came out to see Lizzy spoke of it being a once in a lifetime opportunity. Because she grew up in the area, the whole day was more significant as Lizzy showed the children that they can achieve absolutely anything.
Sevenoaks District Council leader Peter Fleming said: “What a fantastic day it’s been. Absolutely everywhere we’ve been people have been out waving flags. People want to cheer Lizzy on and the reaction has been phenomenal from the schools. She wanted to make sure she was inspiring the next generation”.
As Lizzy finally got off the bus for the last time, she announced that “the day had been a lot of fun, and very well organised”. That was testament to her and her team as she smiled her way around West Kent.
To spend the day watching Lizzy was fascinating, she has such a calmness about her, a presence that makes you immediately feel at ease. It was an absolute honour and a pleasure to be part of the Victory Parade and one that we will never forget.
We will wait to see what Lizzy does next, but for now this golden girl has earnt the right to take a little break.