Gold medallist at 2016 Rio Paralympic Games inspiring next generation of rowers at Hackney school
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
A gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games is inspiring the next generation of rowers at a Hackney secondary school.
It’s normally a sport reserved for the private school elite, but rowing is firmly on the curriculum at Mossbourne Community Academy, especially with Great Britain’s world champion cox Oliver James at the helm as head coach.
The 25-year-old, now retired, started at the Downs Park Road school the day after returning from Brazil as a champion, and has set his sights on establishing Mossbourne as a top rowing academy.
Oliver said: “I had other coaching offers, but the ambition of the staff here and the potential of the project swayed me.”
Associate vice principal Neil Robinson added: “In his interview before the summer Oliver said he was a world champion who would return to the school as an Olympic champion, and that’s exactly what he did.”
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An example of success breeding success can be seen in sixth former Leila Bernstein, who is rowing twice a day for six days a week in a bid for selection into the Great Britain youth rowing squad – but there are a flurry of Year 10 students hot on her tail.
One is Nana Yaw Antiedu, rowing despite not being able to swim and coming from a football background.
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“It was scary at first, but I am gradually getting more confident,” he said. “My parents had no idea about rowing, but I was watching it on television with them when the Olympics was on.”
Academy chief executive Peter Hughes sees it as an opportunity for students, who row out of the London Regatta Centre, to try a sport almost exclusively reserved for private school pupils.
He said: “We have had pupils secure scholarships to top universities in the United States on the back of rowing at Mossbourne. They can be growing up on an estate and then the next thing they could be on the Henley Regatta or winning an Olympic medal.”
The academy is offering up to 20 external places for its Year 9 cohort in September. Call 020 8525 5200 for more.