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Golden moments as youngsters meet sporting heroes

15 December 2008



Anna Bebington, Bronze medal winner, double sculls; Adelle Tracey (age 15) Talented Young Athlete 800 metre National Champion; Zac Purchase, Gold medal winner, double sculls with Pam Alexander, SEEDA CEO.
Photo credit: Steve Rowe.

Children from three schools in the South East met their sporting heroes on Friday at a star-studded event which celebrated the achievements of the Beijing 2008 Olympic and Paralympic medallists and looked forward to the 2012 Olympics.

The event, designed to inspire and motivate young people and highlighting the 2012 related business opportunities in the South East, was organised by the South East Partnership for the 2012 Games (SEP 2012) and took place at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey. SEEDA, the South East England Development Agency, is the strategic lead organisation for SEP 2012.

Children from Magna Carta School, Egham, Jubilee High School , Addlestone and Samuel Cody Specialist Sports College , Farnborough, had the opportunity to mingle with favourite athletes and find out what it really takes to become an Olympic or Paralympic medallist.

Olympians attending included Zac Purchase, Gold medal winner, double sculls; Mark Hunter, Gold medal winner, double sculls; Anna Bebington, Bronze medal winner, double sculls; Josh West, Silver medal winner, rowing Eights; Sarah Webb- Gold medal Yngling, Sailing; Deborah Flood, Silver medal, rowing quadruple sculls, and Frances Houghton, Silver medal, rowing quadruple sculls.

Paralympians included Sophie Christiansen, Gold medal winner, Equestrian, Team Championship and Gold medal winner, Equestrian Individual Championship; Helene Raynsford, Gold medal winner, Rowing, women's arms only single sculls; Vicki Hansford, Bronze medal winner, rowing, coxed fours; James Morgan, Bronze medal winner, rowing, coxed fours; Peter Norfolk MBE, Gold medal winner, tennis Quad Singles and Bronze medal winner, tennis mixed quad doubles, and Dan Bentley, Gold, Boccia.

The event was designed to inspire organisations to support the 2012 activities in the region. Compered by BBC South East's Rob Smith, it included on stage interviews with athletes about their successes.

Helene Raynsford commented: "I was a dancer in the Royal Ballet School until 17 which taught me about entire body strength. I took from that the determined commitment and focus to succeed in any sport. It was great to finally get the first Gold in adaptive rowing.

"I'm no different from who I was before, I just can't change a lightbulb. Life has thrown me a curved ball, but I've always believed that anybody can achieve what they want, no matter what their disability."

Sophie Christiansen added: "I originally started riding for the disabled association and fell in love with horses and the freedom they gave me. You get to work and build up a relationship with your horse – building that bond is very important. My Gold medals also belong to my horse – we all have so many others helping us along the way."

Rousing speeches were delivered by Pam Alexander, Chief Executive of SEEDA, Mary McAnally, Chair of the Regional Sports Council, and Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Disabled People and Minister for the South East.

"The Olympics and Paralympics offers one of the few certainties over the next four years, and the South East Partnership is determined to ensure that this is turned into an economic, cultural, social and sporting success," Pam explained.

"Our Olympic and Paralympic guests understand what it takes to be successful. We will be using the 2012 Games to ensure that the South East is successful in a whole range of areas – and I am sure that we can rely on our athletes to crown all that with another spectacular haul of medals!"

Jonathan Shaw added: "The success in Beijing demonstrates what can be achieved through a combination of ability and hard work, and serves to inspire not only young athletes but all of us in the South East.

"I have no doubt the region will continue to lead the way in the run up to 2012, with more events changing the way we feel about culture, more schools using the Games to drive change and ambition, and more skills initiatives using the Olympic and Paralympic focus on excellence."

Related media:

Jonathan Shaw interviewed by Jubilee High School, Surrey, 12 December 2008

For media enquiries, please contact:

Tanya Reed, SEEDA Communications
Phone: 01483 484 200
Email: pressoffice@seeda.co.uk

or Paddy Herlihy
Email: padraigherlihy@seeda.co.uk

High resolution images available of athletes, youngsters and speakers.

For more information please contact our press office

Tel: 01483 470155