A COMMUNITY leader, whose boxing club has inspired hundreds of people from Leamington and Warwick, is in the running for a major honour at this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
Harvinder “Babs” Kandola scooped the prestigious regional BBC Midlands Sports Unsung Hero award for 2019 after he was nominated by people in the community.
And he now goes through to the national Unsung Hero Awards which will be announced at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Aberdeen on Sunday December 15.
At the ceremony he will be sharing the spotlight with stars including cricketer Ben Stokes, who helped England to World Cup glory, world champion athletes Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson, F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton,
Wales Grand Slam captain Alun Wyn Jones and Manchester City and England striker Raheem Sterling.
For many years Babs, who works with Royal Leamington Spa College’s (WCG) supported learning students, has devoted his free time to teaching people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities how to box at Fitzpatrick’s Boxing Club in Leamington. The classes have enabled them to exercise and socialise in a safe place.
Earlier this year, following a surge in the number of people attending the classes, Babs opened Leamington Community Boxing Club with the aim of reaching underrepresented groups.
Babs said: “I was really shocked to receive the award and I want to pay tribute to the other nominees, all of whom do tremendous work in their communities.
“I strongly believe that sport should be for everyone. Everything I do is for the people – young and old – in our community, and I’m thankful that I am able to make a positive difference to their lives.
“The most important thing for me is seeing people leave the gym feeling better and more confident about themselves than when they walked in. It’s really rewarding to be able to support them.”
While Babs enjoys working closely with young and aspiring boxers in Leamington and Warwick, he is equally committed to providing classes to those who want to train without risking a punch on the nose.
Babs, who runs the gym at WCG, gives classes to the college’s supported learning students, trains teenage girls in self-defence and runs classes for elderly people in the community.
The award is also testament to the many years that Babs has devoted to youngsters in the area across a range of sports.
He set up Leamington’s first Asian football team in the 1980s and organises a charity cricket match every year to honour Paratrooper Conrad Lewis, one of his former youth footballers, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
Babs is looking forward to attending the Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Aberdeen.
“I’d love to meet Anthony Joshua. He’s a terrific role model and a real inspiration to many of the young people who come to the boxing club. I also love cricket so I would also love to meet Ben Stokes.
“I am just thrilled to have received the award for the Midlands. I’m very proud of my community and am looking forward to supporting it for many years to come.”
Carol Savage, supported learning curriculum leader at WCG was full of praise for Babs.
She said: “Babs has been working with our supported learning students for many years. He has a fantastic relationship with all of the students and is always so inclusive and ensures each individual student has the opportunity to reach their potential and achieve their goals.
“His work is so important to people across the community – especially our supported learning students. His boxing gym provides students with a safe, inclusive space to train and improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
“All of us at WCG are so proud of Babs and thrilled that his years of dedication have been recognised by such a prestigious accolade. We’ll all be keeping our fingers crossed when they announce the national winner at the Sports Personality of the Year Award.”