A Northamptonshire man is preparing for an incredible trip to Brazil where he will carry the Olympic torch as it makes its way to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Neil Balderson, of Wollaston, was selected for the honour as part of a competition run by his employer, Nissan – official automotive partners of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The 35-year-old senior engineer is chairman of Northamptonshire Search and Rescue – part of Lowland Rescue – and is on round-the-clock call to support the emergency services across the county.
Despite a busy professional life at Nissan’s European Technical Centre in Bedfordshire, Neil – a trained search technician and advanced first aider – donates more than 15 hours a week to the service, in addition to any call-outs.
His recently received a Chief Constable’s Certificate of Appreciation for the part he played in finding a vulnerable elderly woman missing in Northampton town centre.
He will carry the Olympic flame for about 200m through the city of Belo Horizonte – the City of Beautiful Horizons – as part of its 95-day, 36,000km journey which will be seen by an estimated 90 per cent of Brazil’s population.
His stint as a torchbearer will be the highlight of an incredible five-day trip that will take in the sights of Rio and Belo Horizonte.
Neil will be accompanied on the trip by his wife, Gemma.
An excited Neil said: “This is an absolutely amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to be part of such an incredible spectacle.
“It’s a bit like a dream come true.
“Gemma and I have always wanted to visit Brazil and see the sights but because of work or volunteering, it’s never been a possibility.
“Now we’re going!”
Talking about his role with Northamptonshire Search and Rescue, Neil explained: “We are one of 36 teams Lowland Rescue has across the country.
“Our primary role is essentially the same as Mountain Rescue but obviously there aren’t many mountains in Northamptonshire.
“Whereas they tend to look for people who have got lost and want help, we are typically looking for people who’ve got lost and don’t realise.
“This could be dementia patients or children or people who don’t want to be found.”
He continued: “There are between 1,200 and 1,500 missing people in Northamptonshire each year.
“We’re not involved in each one but, when we are, our searches can take place for eight to 10 hours a day and can continue across multiple days.
“Between that and the training it takes up a lot of time but when it’s something you love doing, that doesn’t really matter.”