When Doreen met Gary

…at BBC Sports Personality 2009

Nominating Doreen for BBC London unsung sports hero of the year was only the beginning of the adventure.

In late November, a week after sending in the nomination, we heard that Doreen had won the London region award. But we had to keep it a secret until after that weekend’s Sunday morning races. Emma Jones from the BBC came down to the Lido and filmed the races before filming Doreen’s surprised and shocked face when Naomi presented her with the award.

Information about what winning the regional award meant trickled through – a trip to Sheffield for the Sports Personality of the Year show, a chance to win the national unsung hero award, a new frock – the excitement was endless. A fabulous outing to Peter Jones’ fashion advisor was a pre-trip highlight and resulted in a gorgeous red silk dress, black velvet coat and patent ruby shoes for Doreen and a sparkly dress for me.

On Sunday the 13th of December Doreen picked me up in a cab for the fast and scary trip to St Pancras. Three and a half hours later we were in Sheffield and on our way to the Hilton. For cold water swimmers the Hilton was hot, hot, hot – Doreen thought the temperature was just right! We met another Doreen in the lobby, Doreen Adcock, who later in the evening won the national unsung hero award. But no time to chat as we had to get changed before meeting all the other unsung heros. And what a lovely bunch of people: there was Sheila, a much-loved netball coach; a sweet 87 year old rowing enthusiast, Bobby, from Northern Ireland; football referee Bernie from Deal. That’s only three of them and they were all, without exception, very special people.

At the end of the briefing Charles Runcie, Head of Sport, BBC English Regions, announced the shortlist of three. A relief for the other 12 unsung heros – they could now relax and enjoy the evening. The shortlisted three spent the next three hours nervously thinking about what they would say in their thirty seconds on the podium.

When we arrived at iceSheffield it dawned on us what a big event this was – lots of security, lots of glamorous girls and boys and a lovely glittering, huge room. And this was only the pre-show party. Drink flowed and delicious canapés were served. We ate lots of sticky toffee sausages but not too much drink as we had to spend the next three hours glued to our seats! Then a long, cold walkway from iceSheffield to the arena. As we walked through the entrance we were blown away by the sheer size of the auditorium and the sight of 11,000 spectators – a fantastic atmosphere.

Our seats were right in the middle and the three hours went by so quickly. As a precursor to the live show we watched a great turn from Smithy of Gavin & Stacey, filmed for Sport Relief – very funny – the sketch will be on next March and will be worth a look.

Once the show went live everything went smoothly and it was great fun to see how the show gets put together, all very professional and fast moving. Beth Tweddle and Daniel Keatings did an amazing gymnastic show right in front of us – I tried to get a photo but all I got was a blur. Finally Ryan Giggs was up on the stage receiving his award, glitter was falling and the show was over.

Back through the cold tunnel to the enormous party room and almost immediately I lost Doreen as she went off in search of Gary Linekar. She returned having met David Haye and Jennifer Ennis. She then spotted Phillips Idowu and Chris Eubanks. They were perfect gentleman and posed with Doreen for a photo. Doreen headed off again, with me in tow, to the VIP area because she had heard Gary Linekar was there. She showed her wrist band to the security guard and even though it was the wrong colour he let us through. After meeting Andrew Castle and Sue Barker we got to say hello to Gary Linekar and Doreen had her photo taken with him by her personal photographer, me. A quick sit down after all the excitement, next to Paula Radcliffe, who was wearing a lovely, very short, sparkly dress. Time to go home, but before we got to the exit Freddie Flintoff took a shine to Doreen and planted a smacker on her cheek, so one last photo before we left.

Doreen and I slept like logs. At breakfast with the other unsung heroes everyone was tired but happy after such a wonderful evening. It took a while to say our goodbyes but eventually we left for the station and the journey home. A big thank you to Emma, Archie, Charles and all the other amazing people at the BBC. They know how to look after their guests and make them feel special. And they put on a fantastic show!

Sue Rentoul