Olympic call up for Durham graduates
(17 July 2008)
Four Durham University graduates will be going for gold when they represent Britain at the Beijing Olympics this summer.
James Clarke, Alice Freeman, Louisa Reeve and Stephen Rowbotham have been selected for the TeamGB rowing squad – even though some had never even picked up an oar before joining Durham.
Stephen, 26, is used to international competition, having represented Great Britain in top-level tennis. He swapped the tennis court for the water on joining Durham in 2000. Since then he’s racked up a hoard of international medals, including gold in the 2007 World Cup Series.
Twenty-nine-year-old Alice was also new to the sport when she joined Hatfield College Rowing Club, but rapidly moved on to compete at University level and reached international level last year. She is taking time out from her career as a maths teacher to prepare for the Olympic challenge.
Louisa, 24, learned to row at school, but only began to take the sport seriously at Durham under the guidance of coaches Wade and Emma Hall-Craggs, winning gold at the World University Rowing Championships in 2002. She will compete in the women’s pair event in Beijing.
Promising music graduate James, 23, will compete in the lightweight men’s four team which also took gold in the World Rowing Championships last year.
The four hopefuls will be joined by another ex-Durham University student, Coach Rob Morgan.
Former Olympic competitor Wade Hall-Craggs, who now coaches at Durham, said: “We are particularly proud of our Olympic alumni and expect this to be a precursor to even better things in 2012.
“As one of the Amateur Rowing Association's High Performance Programmes, we are tasked with getting athletes into GB teams. The strong showing of our alumni in this Olympic team is another example of our continuing success in the sport.”
Rowing is one of Great Britain’s most successful Olympic disciplines, and the North East has a particularly strong history in the sport.
At this year’s British Universities Sports Association (BUSA) rowing championships, Durham swept to first place followed by Newcastle University in second, underlining the region's claim to be the capital of first class rowing in Britain. Across all sports, Durham University reached fourth place in the BUSA league in 2008.
Judith Rasmussen, regional director with Sport England North East said: “There are a total of 7 rowers from the North East heading out to Beijing. This is a phenomenal success and a great credit to both the athletes and the outstanding club and coaching structure we have in the region.
“Durham is certainly leading the way in identifying and nurturing talent so our future athletes reach their full potential. There is a wealth of young world class rowers coming through and with rowing recognised as one of the region’s target sports in the build up to the London 2012 Games, many already have their sights set firmly on 2012.
“We are extremely proud of the North East rowers, wishing them every success in Beijing. Durham, the North East, the Nation will be supporting their every stroke.”
In addition to the Olympic hopefuls, six rowers and two coaches have been selected from Durham University for this week’s (17th – 20th July) U23 World Championships, including ten-times BUSA gold medallist Frances Fletcher, of Chester-le-Street. Modern Apprentice Kieren Emery, who hails from Newcastle, and student Stuart McCluskey will compete in the Junior World Championships.
Durham University has also been made an official training ground for athletes preparing for the London 2012 Games.
The region’s homeless groups will benefit from Durham’s involvement with 2012, as students take part in a project to provide sports sessions for homeless young people, aiming to raise aspirations as well as integrate the University with the local community.