AN inspirational services veteran who excels in sport despite losing his sight saw his dream come true when he met his heroes.
Blind veteran David Cranson got the chance to meet Olympic hero triathletes Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee during a visit to Hartlepool Art Club.
But it was David who had the Brownless starstruck, and they said he was an inspiration to them.
The 60-year-old was shortlisted for a Hartlepool Mail Sport Award last year, after town man Tug Wilson nominated him in the Disabled Sportsperson Award.
David served as a gunner driver with the 5th Regiment of the Royal Artillery from 1971-1975 and later worked in factories and for the National Coal Board.
Despite losing 90 per cent of his sight through a deteriorated optic nerve in 1998, he has turned his life around thanks to support from the Blind Veterans UK military charity.
Since 2009, David has completed gruelling challenges to raise funds for the cause, including five Olympic-distance London triathlons, four 60-mile tandem drives, three Great South Runs, one London Marathon, one Brighton Marathon, and a 75-mile walk on the South Downs Way from Winchester to the Blind Veterans UK centre in Brighton.
David, who regularly completes in cycling and running challenges and trains at Hartlepool’s Mill House Leisure Centre, told the Mail last year that his dream was to meet Alastair, who won gold in the London 2012 Olympics and younger brother Jonathan, who took bronze.
Hartlepool Art Club heard about David’s wish and invited him along to meet the Brownlees, who were in town to record a video for the opening ceremony of the club’s annual exhibition.
David, who lives in Deaf Hill and is dad to Karen Cranson, 37, and Wayne Cranson, 34, said: “It was a dream come true to meet Alastair and Jonathan.
“I was in awe of them. Their mother was there too and I said to her ‘your sons are my heroes’.
“The brothers told me I was an inspiration to them.
“We had a long chat about triathlons and they were very interested in how I make the transition from one stage to the next.
“They also wanted to know what it was like to be cycling at 35mph when you are vision impaired! They had loads of time for me.”
Art club president Margaret Wyles will be taking David around the exhibition and describing it to him when it launches on November 14 at Hartlepool Art Gallery.
She said: “As one would expect of an ex-soldier, David was very smartly dressed and had come prepared with his sporting medals and certificates to show the brothers.
“Alistair and Jonnie spent considerable time talking with David, discussing the triathlon as a sport and David’s achievements in this field.
“They were very interested in how David adapted the disciplines to compensate for his loss of sight. There was some light-hearted presenting and trying on of medals which entertained everyone.”
For more details on Blind Veteran UK’s services, visit www.blindveterans.org.uk