Uckfield pupils inspired by sports stars

Alison Mowbray with Rocks Park pupils by Ron Hill
Alison Mowbray with Rocks Park pupils by Ron Hill
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Two top athletes visited Uckfield schools last month with the aim of inspiring youngsters to overcome setbacks and go on to realise their dreams.

Olympic rowing silver medallist Alison Mowbray visited Rocks Park School while Olympic and world champion rower Toby Garbett took time out to chat to pupils at Manor School.

The visits were part of the Olympic inspired programme Be the Best You Can Be which works to build an educational legacy following London 2012.

Alison Mowbray has retired from international rowing and works as an inspirational speaker developing future leaders. There are few self-confessed sporting disasters that go on to become Olympic champions, but Alison told pupils that throwing, running, cycling, hitting, swimming, catching and kicking had all been ruled out through years of school PE failure and so she focused on her studies. She qualified as a doctor in genetic engineering at Cambridge.

Rowing was one activity she enjoyed after leaving school and at the age of 26 she was encouraged to develop the sport from occasional exercise into friendly competition. To her amazement it took her to two Olympic Games and a memorable rowing silver medal in Athens.

She made her mark as part of a rowing quartet, and over recent years played her part in the 2012 bid team’s success – bringing the Olympics to Great Britain as she encourages others, young and old, to be inspired by sport.

She said: “It doesn’t give you anything unless you get in there and get stuck in, but it is that – for people to do things they wouldn’t normally do or wouldn’t normally experience and it’s a fantastic showcase for our country and our sport.”

Toby Garbett delivered a similar message to children at Manor School during the last week in November. Toby made a splash with a haul of gold and silver medals from 2000 onwards and rowed in the Athens and Sydney Olympics. Although struggling with severe dyslexia he found sport an outlet in which he could focus and excel. He played rugby for his county, captained the school’s cross country team and earned a black belt in judo before taking up rowing at the Leander Club in Henley-on-Thames.

He said: “At school I played a lot of sports. I wasn’t naturally talented but I persevered and achieved a good grounding. I had no belief in my capability and certainly never held any ambitions when I was at school that I could become a professional sportsman. But being an athlete mentor and speaker is all about giving today’s students the confidence I lacked at their age.”