Local Olympian makes Hall of Fame

Olympic silver medallist and Scotland rugby star Mark Bennett has made it onto the Olympian hall of fame at the Ayrshire Athletics Arena in Kilmarnock.

At a special ceremony, Mark’s portrait from the 2016 Rio Olympics was unveiled and will feature beside runner Cameron Sharp, weightlifter Peter Kirkbride and Special Olympian Alan Jardine.

Mark, who was a former East Ayrshire talented athlete, followed the rugby pathway from school to Cumnock and Ayr rugby clubs before making the move to playing professional rugby at Glasgow Warriors.

His performance in the 2015 World Cup was outstanding and was one of just three players to be nominated for the World Breakthrough Player of the Year award.

Fast forward a year and Mark was the only capped XV’s international to be included in the Team GB men’s sevens squad in Rio, earning a silver medal in the process.

Provost Jim Todd, who presented Mark with a framed print of the portrait said: “I was delighted to invite Mark and his family for this special event at the Ayrshire Athletics Arena. We are incredibly proud of all of our Olympians and the success they have achieved.

“For all his success Mark is so down to earth and is still involved at the grassroots in Cumnock, helping with the mini teams when he can. He also attends our annual Talented Athlete Sports Awards and visits local schools advising young people about healthy eating and importance of exercise.

“I have absolutely no doubt that having inspirational world class athletes like Mark encouraging our young people, future stars of the game will hail from East Ayrshire.”

Pupils from Loudoun Academy’s School of Rugby attended the ceremony along with players from TRI Rugby. The players impressed the gathered audience with a demonstration game, showcasing their handling skills.

Scottish Rugby’s Schools and Youth Manager Glen Tippett said: “We are delighted that East Ayrshire Council has chosen to recognise one of their own, Mark Bennett, in this way.

“Mark is an outstanding ambassador for our sport, and also for his community. He is an inspiration for the young people of East Ayrshire (and beyond) and thanks to the partnership between Scottish Rugby, the rugby clubs in the area and East Ayrshire Council, the opportunity is there for young people, boys and girls, to be the best that they can be, with our sport playing a key role in that.”