Philanthropist and National hero Bob Champion heads New Year's honours list
Bob Champion, who recovered from cancer to win the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti before founding a successful trust to research the disease, could not hide his delight after being made a CBE for his charitable work in the Queen's New Year's honours list.
The 72-year-old, whose heroic Aintree exploits featured in a film and helped him enter racing folklore, founded the Bob Champion Cancer Trust in 1983 and a sum in the region of £15 million has since been raised.
It forms part of the largest male-dedicated research facility in Europe with sites at the Royal Marsden in Surrey and another in Norwich.
Champion, made an MBE in 1982 for his contribution to the sport, said: "I'm absolutely chuffed, but the people at the trust deserve it as much as me, and those who have supported us.
"It was a big surprise. I heard about it two months or so ago and you're not allowed to say anything, which I still haven't, bar a couple of press people.
"I'm really honoured. The MBE was a long time ago and I never dreamed I'd get another award. It's the icing on the cake, while I think it means more.
"The MBE meant an awful lot, but I'm not a jockey now and I feel the trust has done a huge amount – credit to everyone there and those who have donated."
Champion, optimistic the charity can thrive once more in 2021 after being hit by the coronavirus pandemic, added: "People think it was me who set it up, but when I won the National people sent their winnings to the Royal Marsden/care of me, so the punters of Britain set it up!
"There was quite a bit and Nick Embiricos, who owned Aldaniti, and Professor [Michael] Peckham thought we had to do something useful with it.
"It would never have happened but for those punters and we've two laboratories, which are both coming up with the results, but I never envisaged it would grow like it has. We thought it would last two to three years, but we're still going and have raised, I suppose, more than £15 million now."
The BHA's recently departed chief executive Nick Rust was made an OBE for services to horseracing and he said: "I'm extremely proud to have been nominated.
"The honour reflects the hard and excellent work this year of colleagues at the BHA and throughout British racing in keeping our industry of more than 20,000 people going and surviving largely intact, despite the impact of the pandemic.
"In accepting the award, I'm dedicating it to all racing industry colleagues, and also to the nation's care, health and emergency workers – the heroes who have selflessly put others first in order to protect us all and to keep the country's economy going."
BHA chair Annamarie Phelps praised Rust by saying: "I'm delighted Nick's service to the BHA and the sport has been recognised with a national honour. Throughout his tenure at the BHA, Nick has worked to bring people together and do the right thing for the sport and he's never been afraid to make difficult decisions.
"The award also reflects the leadership Nick has shown in areas such as diversity and inclusion, and the welfare of the sport's human and equine participants. It is particularly fitting this recognition should come this year following the tireless commitment and resilience he showed in supporting the resumption and continuation of racing through this most difficult period."
Nigel Payne, the former chairman of the Professional Jockeys Association, was another industry personality recognised (MBE) for his contribution to horseracing and charity.
Payne, who is chairman of the Peter O'Sullevan Charitable Trust, said: "Obviously I was astounded and feel very, very proud and humbled.
"I've been involved in racing since 1973 – the Grand National since 1976 and with Peter's trust for nearly 20 years. I have been very lucky.
"From my perspective the last year has been pretty frenetic with Peter's trust because we have had so much to do to satisfy the enormous demands. There are so many people and organisations out there doing wonderful work for animals and horses in particular.
"We've done our very best to meet them and have given away more than £2 million this year."
Sports impresario Barry Hearn, whose wife Susan bred Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak winner Subjectivist, was appointed an OBE, while Racecourse Association chair Maggie Carver has been made a CBE for service to sport and media.
Carver, the former chair of ITN who will become interim chair of media watchdog Ofcom from Friday, said: "I'm thrilled to be honoured in the Queen's 2021 New Year's honours list. It has been a joy and a privilege to serve the media and sports sectors and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to do so."
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