0 Ricoh Arena head groundsman wins national award

john ledwidgeThe Olympics might be over, but Coventry groundsman John Ledwidge has picked up gold for the city.

The head groundsman at the Ricoh Arena scored top spot on the podium at a national awards ceremony for keeping a pristine pitch during last month's Games.

While the eyes of the world focused on the football at the city ground, members of FIFA and the London Organising Committee were busy eyeing Coventry's perfect pitch.

And John has now been recognised for his work, picking up the 2012 Young Turf Professional of the Year Award at the Macdonald Savill Court Hotel in Surrey, part of the sixth Turf Pro Awards - which recognise excellence in turf care management and sportsground upkeep.

During the Olympics, 12 matches were played at the Ricoh Arena - renamed City of Coventry Stadium - in eight days.

"This is the first award I have won as head groundsman and it is a reward for my entire team who worked so hard to prepare the pitch between the end of the Coldplay concert and the start of the Olympic Games," the 26-year-old said.

"It was good that we had so much rain for the first two weeks after Coldplay when the seeds were growing but then when the persistent rain continued for weeks three, four and five it turned into a nightmare. When it is dry you can water it, but when it is wet the grass has everything it needs so the roots don't go down as far as you would like so we had to use a few mechanical weapons in our armoury to make sure it grew properly.

"This has been the most testing summer of my career because we had seven weeks and four days between Coldplay and the start of one of the biggest sporting events the country has ever seen to make sure the pitch was to the right standard.

"The biggest aspect is the pressure you put on yourself because I have such high standards for myself and my team. I was determined to create perfection every time two teams walked out there.

"I have never had my work judged by so many people which is nerve-wracking. I put in 240 hours in two weeks but that was why the pitch looked so good - and I looked like I had been dragged through a hedge backwards!

"FIFA had a representative here permanently along with LOCOG and they were very complimentary - they said you could play golf on the pitch."

Anthony Mundy, a director of the Ricoh, said "It was certainly a testing schedule for John and the rest of the grounds staff to ensure the pitch was in first-class condition for the 12 matches which were played in the Olympic Football Tournament."

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