Olympic torch push for big-hearted artist

Keith Jansz from Finmere has been nominated to carry the olympic torch for a stint.'110629M-C771
Keith Jansz from Finmere has been nominated to carry the olympic torch for a stint.'110629M-C771

A FINMERE artist has been nominated to carry the Olympic torch on part of its 70-day journey to London next year.

Keith Jansz, who suffered a spinal injury in 1995 and paints with a brush held in his mouth, has used his talent to raise money for many charities while also earning his living.

Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the Spinal Injury Association, Help for Heroes and the Back-Up Trust are among the causes he has supported.

He was nominated for the Olympic honour by Victor Fulton, a friend of the international Mouth and Foot Painting Artists organisation.

As part of his nomination, Mr Fulton said: “Not only would London-born Keith deserve to be given the chance to participate in the 2012 Olympic torch relay, by carrying the flame on his wheelchair, but it would also realise his dream to be part of the greatest, all-inclusive, sporting event on earth.”

Friends and neighbours added their voices to the campaign before nominations closed on Wednesday.

Mr Jansz was a keen sportsman and athlete, competing in football, rugby, gymnastics, county-level athletics and cross-country running.

Two months before his accident he ran the London Marathon for Barnado’s.

Mr Jansz said: “I had no idea they were going to do this, I was stunned and amazed.

“It had never occurred to me as something I would want to do, but I’d really like to do it now the idea’s there.

“There are many people applying for this and I know the chances are slim.

“Lots of people are wishing me luck and it’s fantastic.”

In mid-July, Mr Jansz will join world-famous artists including Damien Hurst, Banksy, Nick Walker, Johannes von Stumm and Takashi Murakami in exhibiting work at the new Bloomsbury Art Fair in London.

The event will raise money for mobility charity Motivation, the Parachute Regiment Charity, the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust and the Spinal Injuries Association.

BBC journalist Frank Gardner OBE, who is partly paralysed after being shot by al-Qaeda sympathisers in Saudi Arabia in 2004, will be guest of honour at the Bloomsbury Art Fair.

Mr Jansz, who was born in St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, said: “I was born in London so this would be a great honour.

“But it’s a big if at the moment so I can’t let myself get too blown away.”

Mr Jansz said his competitive spirit remains with him, and has helped in his development as a professional artist.

“The sense of failure and success follows me to this day. I still get upset when I fail, but you’ve got to pick yourself up and carry on,” he said.

A total of 8,000 people will have carried the Olympic torch by the time it arrives in London on July 27 next year.

Oxford will host its own Olympic celebration when the torch passes through on Monday, July 9.