October 24, 2020

Black History Month: Marcus Rashford, Dion Dublin & Denise Lewis on their black sporting heroes

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Cyrille Regis
Regis made 241 appearances for the Baggies, scoring 81 goals

BBC Sport is recognising and celebrating the achievements of black athletes throughout Black History Month in October.

As part of it, BBC Radio 5 live spoke to some of Britain’s biggest sports stars to ask them about their heroes.

The likes of Marcus Rashford, Dion Dublin, Olympic heptathlete champion Denise Lewis and Alice Dearing, the only black female swimmer to represent GB, all feature.

You can hear Heroes, presented by Jeanette Kwakye and Darren Campbell, on Thursday from 19:00 BST on BBC Radio 5 Live and listen again via BBC Sounds.

BBC pundit and former England striker Dion Dublin on the late Cyrille Regis

Growing up, I wanted to be like West Brom striker Cyrille Regis – a centre-forward with power and leadership.

Someone who would take responsibility for his action and was a captain without the armband.

He was my inspiration. I wanted to copy the way he held the ball up, the way he struck the ball, the way he ran. I’ll never be as powerful or as strong as Cyrille was, but I tried my hardest.

Back then at West Brom, Cyrille was the man who had the weight of the world on his shoulders trying to overcome so much rubbish, but he did.

Dion Dublin
Dublin spoke at a memorial at the Hawthorns for Regis after his death in 2018

How did he do it? When people said bad things, he ignored it and just put the ball in the back of the net. When bananas were thrown onto the pitch, he kicked them off.

He valued his job and his position in the football world because he knew there were people like me watching him and he wanted to do it right for those following him.

There wasn’t anyone else I tried to copy and he will always be close to my heart as my football hero.

Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford on boxing legend Muhammad Ali

When I was younger I was a big fan of boxing and I used to listen a lot to Muhammad Ali’s interviews, and the things he said, and how strongly he believed in the things he said.

Muhammad Ali
Ali, who died in 2016, was nicknamed “The Greatest”

“He was always someone I looked to as an example of how to behave when you are someone who is in the spotlight, and as a professional athlete that has stuck with me.

“It is important that people feel that freedom to speak out on things that on paper people would say they shouldn’t speak out on.

“In reality it is an opinion and everyone has freedom of speech and it is important for people to understand that.”

Olympic heptathlon gold medallist and BBC pundit Denise Lewis on a trio of athletics stars

“I feel blessed to be a Midlander and early on I trained at the same club as Sonia Lannaman, who was one of the best sprinters in the country of her time and one of the youngest athletes to get to the Olympics at 16 in 1972.

“She was real, she was there, she looked like me – or rather, I looked like her, and she was someone who wore the GB kit and I knew the opportunity was there for me.

Sonia Lannaman and Judy Simpson
Lannaman and Simpson both represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games

“Later, I moved to Birchfield Harriers where heptathlete Judy Livermore, later Simpson, with her iconic beads and braids, also trained. She was six foot, long legs and just an awesome-looking athlete

“These were people I could see a couple of times a week on the track. They were real for me and helped shape my aspiration and gave me confidence that if I worked hard enough, something could be possible.

“Decathlete Daley Thompson is another hero. He is a global icon and I loved his arrogance and talent and the fact he had everyone eating out of his hand. I’m so proud to call him my friend.”