Oarsome Inspiration

Olympic Gold Medalists return to Durham University to inspire next generation


Olympic Gold Medalists return to Durham University to inspire next generation.

No one can deny that the Olympic games were a highlight of this summer, not only for London but also for the rest of the world. Last Sunday, it was Durham that played host as previous rowing graduates returned to our little city to take part in the University’s ‘Learn to Row’ programme; part of the 2012 initiative to inspire a new generation of athletes.

Amongst these was Sophie Hosking, who along with her rowing partner Kat Copeland, won gold in this year’s Olympic Games in London.

Sophie Hosking & Kat Copeland (Photographed by Peter Spurrier)

The team also included Olympic bronze medallist, Stephen Rowbotham; London 2012 finalist, Louisa Reeve, and GB rower and Rio Olympics hope, Emily Taylor.

Durham is ranked in the top 3 sporting universities in Britain, and is globally renowned for producing world-class athletes across an array of disciplines.

Perhaps most impressive of all, Durham’s rowers have won over 100 international vests since 2004.

As further encouragement to aspiring athletes, both Rowbotham and Taylor divulged that they had never rowed until they started their degrees at Durham.

Rowbotham said: “Having watched Steve Redgrave get his fifth gold medal from the comfort of my own living room, I decided to take up rowing at Durham.  Three and a half years later I found myself in the GB Rowing team and my dreams came true in 2008 at Beijing when I got my own medal.”

In testament to the strength of the rowing instruction at Durham, Hosking added:  “My time at Durham University helped form the athlete that I am now. Choosing to study and row at Durham will always be a fundamental part of me winning Gold at the Olympics.”

With coaching led by former Olympian Wade Hall-Craggs, rowing at Durham has maintained its matchless standard: the Durham University Boat Club has retained its title as British University champions since 2004.

And now with around 500 students and 50 local school children enrolled in the ‘Learn to Row programme,’ Durham University’s status as an influential rowing centre looks certain to continue.

Callum Plant, a 14-year-old student of Belmont Community School in Durham, who has been taking part in Learn to Row, reportedly said, “We are so lucky to have the facilities here. I have had lots of help and support from the students and staff; they encourage me to aim higher and help me to achieve that.”

Sunday’s event took place in the University’s new rowing tank at Maiden Castle. The tank, one of only three nationwide, was partially financed by a £500k grant from Sport England’s Iconic Facilities fund to form part of the London 2012 sporting legacy for the University and the North of England. The tank is designed to simulate the movement and feel of a boat through water, and the speed flow of the water can be adjusted electronically.

In honour of Sophie’s achievements, it is to be aptly named The Sophie Hosking Rowing Tank.

Sophie in the rowing tank at Maiden Castle

The celebrations, however, did not stop there; 12 of the returning graduates, who have succeeded in competing at Olympic level, were presented with commemorative oars that are to be displayed in the rowing facility.

And with more achievements to undoubtedly look forward to in following years Durham’s rowing club should never be more proud.  After all, “there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”