Race Across the World winner Alfie Watts' new role after losing mum

The TV star said he hopes to be a role model for other youngsters

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Race Across the World's Alfie Watts has a new role. (Studio Lambert/BBC)

Race Across the World winner Alfie Watts is set to help grieving youngsters after losing his own mum when he was just five.

The 21-year-old – who won the BBC reality series this year with his best friend Owen Wood – has been named as an ambassador for Winston’s Wish, the childhood bereavement charity. Watts, whose mother Karen died of breast cancer at the age of 39, told the BBC he hopes to be a role model.

“I think part of the stigma is that I think people think there's a flat way to deal with grief, whereas everyone deals with it differently,” he said. “I think boys deal with it a lot differently than girls, just because of the way that we're kind of brought up to process our emotions and things like that. So I kind of wanted to a be a male role model."

Race Across the World saw Watts and Wood racing five other teams from Japan to Lombok, a distance of 15,000km, in a bid to win the coveted £20,000 prize.

Watts did open up about his mum during the gruelling process, sharing that Karen had been diagnosed with cancer shortly after he was born and that although she was given just weeks to live, she hung on and saw him start school, passing away when he was five.

Alfie took part in an emotional lantern ceremony. (BBC screengrab)
Alfie Watts took part in an emotional lantern ceremony in the show. (BBC screengrab)

When he and Wood travelled through Hoi An in Vietnam they came across the Old Town and its floating lanterns and Watts explained that he and his family had lit lanterns for his late mum.

Tearing up, he lit one for Karen as he explained: "This is the first opportunity I've had on the race to think about my mum. I'm just inundated with emotions I've genuinely not felt since I was a little kid.”

“I just kind of want that sensation of being able to see her again,” he said in the moving scene.

Watts has also previously addressed his loss on Instagram, posting an emotional message to his mum 10 years after he lost her.

“All you ever cared about was me, you were my mum and nobody will ever take that away,” he wrote. “We used to sing Take That in the mornings before school, we used to eat Cornettoes two hours after bed time.

"You bought me everything you could. Little did I know you did this because it would be your only chance to do so… You had no future, but you dedicated your whole present to me.”

He said the bereavement had “created both a physical and mental barrier of a lifetime”, but continued: “This has changed me but it hasn’t shaped me. Even if it has, it’s only been positive. All I ever want to do is prove the world wrong that I am strong enough and I can get past this.”

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Alfie Watts and best friend Owen Wood won the show. (BBC/Studio Lambert)

The TV star is now planning to use his experience to help others, and hopes to help show that different people cope with loss and grief in different ways. He told the BBC that when his mum passed away he felt as if he was being wrapped in cotton wool by others.

"It works for some people, but I don't like to be in this bubble where I'm protected,” he said. “If I'm gonna get anywhere, then I need at some point to find the funny side or move on from it, not everybody is going to want to deal with it like that."

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Alfie Watts and Owen Wood beat the other teams to Lombok. (BBC/Studio Lambert)

Race Across the World fans have been moved to hear about Watts' latest venture, with many saying he would be “an inspiration” to others going through loss.

One posted on Instagram: “Whoever I speak to about the show, they always say ‘when he lit that candle on the river.’ I think we all cried. Keep up the good work, you’re helping so many other people cope.”

“This doesn't surprise me, you were an inspiration on RATW,” said someone else. “So to see you have gone on to support others is a very selfless act. I cried when you both won.”

“What an amazing opportunity Alfie,” another fan wrote. “You will be brilliant, and will support and inspire so many other young people to cope with their lives.”

“My little boy is six years old and he has just lost his Daddy to bowel cancer,” posted someone else. “I’m sure you’ll make a fantastic ambassador, well done.”

“Good for you Alfie, you will be great in this role,” remarked another viewer. “I watched your determination in that race and you both fully deserved your win! Your Ma would've been so proud of you, wishing you the greatest success.”

“Your mum would be super proud,” agreed another fan.