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For one Highbury resident, the start of the Olympic Games tomorrow won’t just be the start of a huge celebration for London, it will also be the culmination of a lifetime’s dancing dream.

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Mike Hawthorne, 51, who lives near Highbury Fields, is one of only four deaf people out of 1,400 dancers taking part in the official opening ceremony.

And Mike, who was born without hearing, has a history of trailblazing. He became the first deaf person to win the British Veterans’ Gymnastics Championships back in 1987.

Originally from Essex, he moved to Islington to be part of the very strong deaf community in the borough.

Then last year he saw an advert to be part of the Olympic cast performing at the curtain-raising show and put himself forward.

“I had my first audition last November with 72 other hopefuls,” said Mike. “I did really well with my dancing, I think mainly thanks to my gymnastic skills.

“I received a call later that month to come back and audition with 400 dancers but I didn’t think I would get a place in the show.

“Then they called me back in January to congratulate me for being part of the opening ceremony. I couldn’t believe it, I was over the moon.”

But after the joy of being selected the real hard work began.

“We have been in rehearsals almost every day since April – but these last two weeks have been the hardest ever.

“But it’s been really good – we have met Danny Boyle many times. I think he would be surprised to know that four of us are deaf dancers, but we can do it. We are so positive about the whole thing.

“I am doubly lucky, because I have also been chosen to be a gamesmaker, which means I will be volunteering on the transport desk in the athletes village.

“But for now I can’t wait to perform as part of the opening ceremony tomorrow night. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

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