Islington bus hero one of 100s to get Olympic tickets

A heroic bus passenger stabbed for protecting grannies from gangsters is one of 45 Islington residents to receive Olympic tickets for making the borough a better place.

The Community Heroes awards, which took place at the Town Hall on Tuesday, gave local champions more than 200 of the hottest seats around at next month’s games – including the coveted 100m final.

Tim Smits, 33, who was nominated for the award by the Gazette, was knifed twice last year after standing up to three thugs who were abusing OAPs on a bus.

Now, after a difficult few months of recovery and rehabilitation, he has received a ticket for the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games.

He said: “I can’t fully describe how hard the last 12 months have been for me, but it is so nice to know people have remembered and care about what I did.

“I only just got on that same bus again for the first time and I have had some really low points – but this award has been like a ray of sunshine. It has given me the jump start that I desperately needed.”

Another Gazette nominated champ is Tony Shephard, 49, who also scooped a ticket for the closing ceremony after trying to rescue three-year-old Brandon Frederick from a burning building last year.

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He smashed the window to get the boy out but the blaze was it too fierce for him to go inside, instead he directed the fire brigade to where Brandon was.

Dennis Fredrick, Brandon’s uncle, said: “Without him Brandon might not be here today. He absolutely deserves those tickets, 200 per cent.”

Bravery must run in the Shephard family as Tony’s grandad was honoured by the council, and featured in the Gazette, for a similar act of heroism back in 1972.

Mr Shephard said: “Our family has been friends with the Fredricks for generations, so I could feel grandad’s breath on the back of my neck throughout. I wouldn’t call it bravery, just helping a neighbour in need – it’s firefighters who do this 10 hours a day.”

But winner of the grand prize – two tickets to see Usain Bolt defend his 100m final – went to Jan Tucker, who has campaigned tirelessly and won funding for safety and environmental improvement to the Palmer Estate, off St John’s Grove, Archway.

Ms Tucker, 61, said: “To get to the Olympic Stadium will be fantastic.

“I don’t do all this work for that reason but it’s nice to be recognised. People do voluntary work because they want to, but its great for the council to look at it like this.”

Also nominated was Mohammed Kozbar, 46, manager of Finsbury Park Mosque, in St Thomas’s Road, for his work bringing communities together. When he took the reins seven years ago the mosque was best known as the lair of hook-handed preacher Abu Hamza.

Since then his team has turned that reputation around, fostering an open and inclusive atmosphere in the process.

Mr Kozbar was also a beacon of calm for the community after the Imam of the nearby Muslim Welfare Centre was killed last year.

He said: “I am very proud to be one of those nominated and happy that our work has been recognised. There is still a lot to do, but looking back over the years there has been a big process of building bridges.

“Now we can look forward to welcoming the Olympics to our country and offering advice to Muslim athletes who are competing during Ramadan.”

Other noteworthy heroes were Virginia Lowe, chairwoman of the Stuart Lowe Trust; a charity which organises trips and clubs for people with mental and physical health problems and celebrates its 500th Friday event tomorrow, and Colonel Brian Kay OBE, a former borough deputy lieutenant and busy member of the community – doing youth work, chairing the Islington Chinese Association and also supporting Mayor’s charities.