This Sunday the great and good of the world of sport will descend on Liverpool for the 2017 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. As always, one of the most eagerly awaited categories will be the BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero.
Sported members have long flown the flag in this category (look no further than last year’s winner Marcellus Baz!), and we’re delighted to see that this year is no exception. Among this year’s 13 regional winners of the Unsung Hero award, we are proud to see two Sported members carry on this tradition – Michael Mitchell, founder, organiser and leader of Radical Bikes in Chelmsford, and Frank O’Sullivan, who started Birmingham City Boxing Club way back in 1956!
First of all congratulations on winning the BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero award for the West Midlands, what was your reaction when you found out?
“’Oh my god, thank you very much!’ I was overawed to say the least; it was one I didn’t expect to win. I was absolutely delighted for the nomination and to be in the last three, but to actually win it was quite a shock to tell you the truth, because the other two nominees were such worthy winners.”
Are you looking forward to attending the ceremony?
“Very much so – to be situated among so many famous people in all the various sports! Obviously, I’ll look to have a few words with Anthony Joshua. I’m glad to be able to take the wife with me to enjoy the spectacle – without her help, and criticisms sometimes, we wouldn’t be where we are today, gym-wise and otherwise.”
What’s been the reaction of those at the club?
“Oh my god the reaction has been tremendous! I’ve had calls from Canada, America, Poland, Ireland and around the country. I’m absolutely amazed how popular the Unsung Hero awards are.”
What has inspired you to keep on volunteering over all these years?
“It’s firstly the love of the sport. And secondly, I’ve always thought it was like a disease – once you’ve got it, it’s very, very difficult to get rid of! The award is more for the people who come to the gym, by virtue of the fact that it takes a lot for someone to get into the ring and box. But there are others who came and turned their lives around completely through training. It’s those people who I look at as the real unsung heroes.”
It’s estimated you’ve clocked up over 76,000 hours of coaching, what advice would you give to young boxers stepping into the ring?
“Boxing not only asks questions of you physically, but also from a mental point of view. Skills don’t substitute fatigue. So the hard work has to be put in to make the skills work 100%. Unfortunately the position we’re in today in terms of discipline in life, seem to have gone out the window somewhat. I find with the training, the right guidance and people having to do things correctly, the discipline they learn through boxing, not only helps them in the ring, but also throughout their life.”
Watch BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2017, Sunday 17 December, live from 18:45 GMT on BBC One and the BBC Sport website & app.