On this day in 2012, 17-year-old Gemma McAllister of Glengormley, Northern Ireland, carried the Olympic torch through Antrim, cheered on by thousands of local people.
The opportunity to carry the torch was an appropriate honour for someone who has done so much to advance the cause of youth sports in her country – and beyond. In addition to playing football (soccer) internationally, she also represented her school in hockey and girls’ rugby and played water polo for Belfast team the Donegall Diamonds. Since 2009 – the year it began in Northern Ireland – Gemma has been part of the Youth Sport Trust’s Young Ambassador programme, which has as its goal “changing young people’s lives through sport”.
She served on the programme’s steering group and has worked to encourage young people to participate in sports. She even held a mini-Olympics event, in which a hundred primary school children participated.
In January of 2012, Gemma’s love of sport took her all the way to Egypt, where she attended a youth sport conference as part of the British delegation. The conference focused on creating sporting opportunities for young Egyptians. While there, Gemma gave a speech on behalf of the British Council in Egypt. At home, her position as ambassador involved promoting last year’s Olympics and Paralympics in London, and in this role she was involved in a project that brought athletes from several middle eastern countries to train in Antrim during July and August in preparation for these major sporting events.
Gemma was selected to be a torchbearer by the Youth Sport Trust “for her outstanding contribution as a Young Ambassador”. The experience, she recalls, “was unbelievable.”
Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013
‘Sporty Gemma on British team off to land of pyramids for conference‘, Belfast Telegraph, 3 January 2012.
‘Successful Year for Antrim Grammar‘, Antrim Times, 26/12/12.
 ‘FiveAthletics and Paralympics teams to train in the north‘, Athletics Northern Ireland, March 2012.
‘Young Ambassador Carries Torch in Antrim’, Youth Sport Trust: news, 7 June 2012.