Olympic gold medallist praises Durham’s rowing facilities
(1 November 2012)
Olympic rower and gold medallist, Sophie Hosking, returned to Durham University to inspire the next generation of rowers.
Sophie, who won gold with her rowing partner Kat Copeland in the London Olympics, rowed with students, local school pupils and fellow Olympians during the weekend of celebrations in Durham.
In Sophie’s honour, the University’s indoor powered rowing tank – which is one of only three in the country and part of the London 2012 sporting legacy – was named The Sophie Hosking Rowing Tank.
Sophie, who studied Chemistry and Physics at Trevelyan College, said: “It is great to be back in Durham and fantastic to see how the sporting facilities have moved on. It is an incredible honour to have the rowing tank named after me.”
Sophie was joined by some of her fellow Durham graduates and international rowers, including bronze medallist, Stephen Rowbotham; London 2012 finalist, Louisa Reeve and GB rower, Emily Taylor.
Stephen Rowbotham, who had never rowed until he started his degree at Durham, commented: “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 having narrowly missed out on a spot at the 2004 Athens Olympics, my dreams came true in 2008 at Beijing when I got my own medal.
“Durham basically facilitated everything that I have gone onto achieve in my sport. If I had gone to any other university, I wouldn’t be standing here today with an Olympic medal in my pocket.”
Durham University has a global reputation for nurturing world-class sporting talent across numerous sports with Durham ranked in the top 3 sporting universities in Britain. Durham University Boat Club has been the British University champions since 2004, retaining its title for nine consecutive years with coaching led by Wade Hall-Craggs, who competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Durham’s rowers have won over 100 international vests since 2004, including those won by Stephen Rowbotham and Emily Taylor who both learned to row from scratch at Durham. In the summer, second year student Lily van den Broecke came away with gold as a rowing cox at the Paralympics.
Sophie Hosking said: “My time at Durham University helped form the athlete that I am now. The rowing programme at Durham in my time was professional and successful and it was a motivating place to train for three years.
“Choosing to study and row at Durham will always be a fundamental part of me wining Gold at the Olympics.''
The University has seen a surge in new female students taking up rowing with girls making up two-thirds of members of its Learn to Row programme out of 500 in total, which is the highest figure ever for girls taking up the sport at Durham. Around 50 local school children are also signed up to the Learn to Row programme with new courses for staff and adults from the local community starting later this year.
Durham University’s senior rowing coach, Wade Hall-Craggs, who himself competed at the Barcelona Olympics, said: “Whether you have rowed before or have never been in a rowing boat before in your life, we want to give people the opportunity to be as good as you can. The facilities we have now enable us to offer this to as many people as possible.”
Callum Plant, who is 14 years old and attends Belmont Community School in Durham, has been taking part in the Learn to Row programme. He said: “We are so lucky to have the facilities here and to be given the opportunity to use them is amazing.
“I have had lots of help and support from the students and staff. They have really taken care of me and shown me how to train and keep my body safe. They encourage me to aim higher and help me to achieve that. It's a great place and I love it.”
The rowing tank was supported 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, 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.
Sophie’s gold medal is not the first in her family. Sophie’s dad, David Hosking, also rowed for Durham University as a student and went onto win gold at the Rowing World Championships in 1980.