Former Crawley pub landlord is Surprise Surprise star

Robert Groves and Davina McCall
Robert Groves and Davina McCall

A former Crawley pub landlord will be the star of ITV hit show Surprise Surprise.

Millions will see the West Green dad have his dream come true on Sunday at 8pm (July 12).

Robert Groves, 59, who ran the Punch Bowl and Millhouse before he was paralysed from the waist down, was led by a group of hand-cyclists into the ITV studios in London.

Rob, who thought he was being filmed for a documentary on June 23, hand-cycled up a ramp and met host Holly Willoughby in front of an audience of 5,000.

He said: “I was just completely shocked.

“I think the first thing I said to her was this is not a documentary is it?

“She said, ‘No, it’s not, you’ve been followed by cameras since January.’”

Rob’s daughter Emily, 18, had nominated him for the show.

Rob, of Town Mead, received a donation of seven hand-cycles worth a total of £30,000 at the ITV studios in London.

He had been raising funds to buy five and now plans to start a youth hand-cycling club at K2 Crawley next month.

He said: “I didn’t get five, I got seven, being delivered in Crawley new week.

“It’s huge, because I’ve now bought the bikes it’s brought everything forward - the fundraising was struggling.”

Rob, who is paralysed from the waist down and wants to inspire disabled young people, said he spoke to some of his celebrity heroes on the show.

He raised £12,000 by hand-cycling from Edinburgh to London in aid of BBC Children in Need and Aspire last year.

He cycled across The Pennines and was joined by a crowd of cyclists at the six cities he visited.

He said: “I achieved things I thought I could never possible achieve.

“I really hope it inspires young and old disabled people to get out there and take up a sport.

“We cycled as one group, as one people, whether you’re disabled or not.”

His best moment during the trip was the warm welcome he received from cyclists who joined him in Newcastle after he had cycled for 108 miles.

He hoped to top £20,000 in funds raised for BBC’s national appeal and Aspire, a charity that supports people with spinal injuries.

He met The Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire during the trip and said the Duke was to make a donation next week.

Robert, a former bodybuilder, was paralysed after his spinal disc collapsed in an accident nine years ago.

He said: “I woke up one day and couldn’t move my legs or walk.

“I used to be a body builder, I was always a very fit person.”

He grew his chest from 44in to 50in in three months to raise money for Crawley Hospital when he ran the Punch Bowl some 16 years ago.

He took up hand-cycling after he went to the London 2012 Paralympics.

Rob plans to complete the Race Across America event.

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