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Rapturous welcome for a home-town hero

ANYONE who watched Andy Murray's Herculean effort to win the US Open will be in no doubt as to his stamina.

WELCOME HOME: Thousands turned out in Dunblane to meet their returning Olympic champion a warm welcome after he sealed a summer of success with his first Grand Slam victory.
WELCOME HOME: Thousands turned out in Dunblane to meet their returning Olympic champion a warm welcome after he sealed a summer of success with his first Grand Slam victory.

It was a quality much in evidence again yesterday when he abandoned his timetable to diligently greet almost every member of the public who had turned out to meet him in his home town of Dunblane.

About 15,000 people, including locals and those from further afield, lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the Grand Slam and Olympic winner and he didn't disappoint, posing for hundred of fans' photographs and autographing everything from the obligatory tennis balls to a Jack Russell's cravat.

An hour before the scheduled start of Murray's walkabout, the town's main street was full to bursting. Thousands stood uncomplaining as they were lashed by torrential rain while they waited for the player, who had been delayed by heavy traffic.

An injection of glamour was brought to proceedings by a trio of young women who had used the backs of their white shorts to spell out I Love Andy.

Jenni Ormiston, Rosie Seaman and Alison Neilson, all aged 22 and from Dunblane, were in high spirits . "We're probably too old to be dressed like this, but we are superfans," said Ms Ormiston. "We stayed up to watch the US Open. It was amazing. It's going to be weird to actually see him in person but we'll make the most of it."

David Lawson, 66, a former resident of Dunblane, had travelled from Perth to see Murray. "It's a fantastic day for Dunblane. No-one from the town would want to miss this," he said.

Referring to the 1996 Dunblane massacre which claimed the lives of 16 chldren and their teacher, Mr Lawson said: "Andy Murray has brought a new lease of life to this town. He has brought something very positive to it. It's like a rebirth for the place.

"I've followed his career since he started out. I'll never forget this day, ever. People are rightfully proud of the boy."

Further up the High Street, Harvey Russell, 10, and his sister Vienna, seven, were frantically waving Saltires. "I think he is great. He is very determined," said Harvey, a pupil at St Mary's Primary in Dunblane.

Cameron Campbell, seven, from Tullibody, and his five-year-old brother Hamish were holding up a "welcome home" banner. With them was their grandmother Helen Virtue, who had travelled from Selkirk for the event. She said: "It's an excellent opportunity to get to meet him in the flesh. The boys are super-excited."

When Murray finally made it to his gold-coloured post box and held aloft his Olympic medals, the photographs, autographs, hugs and handshakes continued.

He even had enough time to delight Sarah Cunningham, 25, from Stirling, when he signed her Jack Russell Alfie's cravat.

In return the little dog licked Murray's face.

Ms Cunningham said: "I shouted 'Will you sign my dog?' and he laughed and said 'Of course I will'.

"Andy and Judy both signed Alfie's cravat, then Alfie licked his face.

"It was a very nice little moment. You could tell Andy is a dog lover. He asked what breed Alfie was and said 'Oh, he's cute'."

Fans of all ages shrugged off the bad weather in order to meet the local hero.

"We waited about two hours to see him but it was definitely worth the wait," said seven-year-old Fin Carr as he brandished a freshly signed Saltire. "We watched him on the TV at Wimbledon so it was good to see him for real."

His mother Helen added: "Andy spent so much time talking to people, it was really fantastic. It's really nice that he's come to Dunblane because he could have done Stirling or Glasgow or somewhere bigger but chose to keep it local."

Slowly but surely, Murray made his way to the top of the town and the place where it all began: the town's tennis club. Here, children lined up, rackets in hand, for the chance to lob a shot at the champion.

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