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Durham University News

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Paralympic gold for Durham University student Lily van den Broecke

(4 September 2012)

Durham University student and rowing cox Lily van den Broecke is celebrating after winning gold at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Lily, who is 20 years old and about to enter her second year at Durham’s University College, guided the Great Britain legs, trunks and arms (LTA) mixed coxed four to victory at Eton Dorney.  

The crew had to overcome an “equipment failure” in warm-up when their speed coach, which shows stroke rate, fell in the water. 

Despite this setback, Lily and crewmates Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, Dave Smith, James Roe, took the lead after halfway in Sunday’s race and eventually won by half a length ahead of Germany in a time of 3:19.38. 

Lily, who is studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics, said: “I can’t believe how proud I am of this crew for keeping everything together.  This is two years’ work and it’s incredible.”

Quentin Sloper, Head of Sport, Music and Theatre at Durham University, commented: “Lily is an extremely hard worker and deserves all of the accolades that come her way. She is a great asset to Durham University, both as an athlete and as a person.

“We have at least two more years with her as she continues her undergraduate studies and we are very hopeful that we can continue to work with the GB team to help her pick up some more medals in other major championships.” 

Although Lily, who is originally from Oxford, has been selected for the Paralympics, she is able-bodied. The rules do not preclude able-bodied athletes from competing as rowing coxes in the Paralympics.

In 2011, Lily won Gold in the World Rowing Championships in Slovenia as part of the LTA mixed coxed four with crewmates Relph, Riches, Smith and Roe, and again at the World Cup in Munich.

In February 2012, Durham University opened a new £6.7m world-class sports facility, including a £1m powered indoor rowing tank, one of only three in the UK and the first in the North of England. 

The tank, used to teach the art of sculling and crew skills, is designed to simulate the movement and feel of a boat through water.  The speed flow of the water can be adjusted electronically to give any speeds up to three metres per second.

Durham University has a global reputation for producing and nurturing world-class sporting talent, counting several Olympic athletes and well-known sporting stars amongst its alumni.  They include Olympic gold medallist and triple jumper, Jonathan Edwards; rower and Olympic bronze medallist, Steve Rowbotham; current England cricket captain Andrew Strauss and former captain Nasser Hussain; and Will Carling, who was the youngest England rugby captain at 22.

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