Freedom of the district to be granted to local athletes

Published Wednesday 15 December 2021

Gold medallists Dylan Fletcher and Laura Sugar are set to be granted the Freedom of the District at a ceremony next year.

Olympian sailor Dylan Fletcher, a former Robert Smyth student from Market Harborough, who won a gold medal for Team GB in the Men’s 49er at Tokyo in 2020, and Paralympian canoeist Laura Sugar, from Billesdon, who also won Gold for Team GB in the women’s KL3 Paracanoe at Tokyo in 2020, will each receive the honour.

Laura Sugar canoeist

At an Extraordinary meeting of Harborough District Council on Monday 13 December 2021, councillors unanimously agreed that the authority would confer the titles of honorary freeman and honorary freewoman respectively to the hugely successful pair.

The Freedom of the District is granted to “persons of distinction” who have “rendered eminent services” and have a strong association with the Harborough district.

Dylan (33) and LaDylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithellura (30) will be invited to a special presentation at Annual Council in May 2022.

Dylan, who went to Market Harborough C of E School and later Kibworth High School and Robert Smyth School, said: “It’s super exciting. This is a great honour and I didn’t expect it. I grew up learning to sail around Market Harborough, and winning gold felt like giving something back to the people who had supported me there over the years.”

Laura said: "It's a huge honour to be recognised for my sporting achievements in Tokyo and to be made Honorary Freewoman of the District of Harborough. The local community is very important to me, especially after Covid, when our community had to all come together in testing times. Thank you to the council for giving me this honour."

Council Leader Cllr Phil King had previously put forward a motion to Council to grant the successful athletes Freedom of the District to recognise their achievements.

Cllr King said: “It’s the least we can do, to show our support to Dylan and Laura after their outstanding achievements. The sheer dedication to get to a Gold medal-winning performance takes a huge amount of commitment and sacrifice and we wanted to recognise that with this honour.”

Cllr Paul Dann, Harborough District Council’s Cabinet lead for corporate services, said: “What Laura and Dylan achieved in Tokyo is inspirational, and they have no doubt encouraged others locally to try to reach their own sporting heights. It is a privilege to bestow this upon them on behalf of everyone in the district.”

These are the first honours of their kind in the district since 2011, when the Royal Anglian Regiment were awarded Freedom of the District.

Pictured: Olympic gold medal winner Dylan Fletcher (left) with sailing partner Stuart Bithell. Photo credit David Pearce/Team GB

Pictured: Laura Sugar, gold medal-winning Paralympian canoeist. Photo courtesy of ParalympicsGB