Grand National-winning jockey Bob Champion has been made a CBE for his charitable services to prostate and testicular cancer research.
There is also recognition in the New Year Honours list for Nick Rust, the outgoing chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority – who has received an OBE for services to the sport.
The Bob Champion Cancer Trust has raised £15million since it was founded in 1983, two years after the jockey made a remarkable recovery from cancer to win the world’s greatest steeplechase on Aldaniti at Aintree.
The trust raises funds for the Bob Champion Cancer Research Laboratory – part of the largest male-dedicated research facility in Europe, situated at the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton – as well as for the Bob Champion Research and Education Building at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.
Champion admits he was totally taken aback when he was told he was to receive the honour.
“I’m absolutely chuffed to death. It was a big surprise to me,” he said.
“I got an MBE quite a long time ago, when I won the National, but this is for my cancer trust.
“It’s for everybody that works and has been involved in it and for the people that have supported it through the years.
“They have done so much for me, racing especially, and we’ve got the two research laboratories up and running – and they are doing a great job. We’ve got to keep raising the money to run them. Science costs money.
“We’re very fortunate we’ve got some top people working in there – and they are coming up with results, which is the main thing.”
For all charities, 2020 has been a tough year to raise money because of the many constraints of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a struggle this year – every charity is finding it difficult,” added Champion.
“Hopefully, this time next year things could be back to normal.”
Champion recalled how the cancer trust came to be set up, soon after his and Aldaniti’s famous victory.
“When I won the National quite a lot of people backed me and they sent their winnings to the Royal Marsden Hospital, care of me,” he said.
“Nick Embiricos, Aldaniti’s owner, and Professor Peckham, my specialist, thought it would be a good idea to set something up.
“Then quite a lot more money came in, so we thought we’d better start being professional. We went from there, and we’ve raised a lot of money.
“That money is going the right way. That is the main thing – with the two laboratories we’ve built and run coming up with the goods.
“Hopefully we’re going to keep helping a lot of people.
“We’ve raised money in different methods and ways, and that’s down to the people in this country. They are amazing, and it’s not just the racing side.”
Rust, meanwhile, steps down as head of the BHA after nearly six years leading racing’s governing body and regulator.
During his tenure, he has dealt with a range of issues – including significant change in the Levy, a review of the buying and selling of horses, improvements to horse welfare, the challenge of increasing diversity and inclusion and, this year of course, a pathway through the coronavirus pandemic which halted racing’s calendar for two months in spring and early summer.
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