Olympic gold medallist and Durham graduate, Sophie Hosking, has returned to the University to help inspire student rowers. Sophie, who won gold with her rowing partner Kat Copeland in the London Olympics, returned to Durham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics, five years after she swapped the River Wear for Eton Dorney.
Sophie shared tips with pupils from local schools as well as university students. She 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 and Rio Olympics hopeful, Emily Taylor.
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 – has been named The Sophie Hosking Rowing Tank. At the unveiling, she said :"I'd just like to say it's an incredible honour to have this rowing tank named after me. "I think it's going to be fantastic for Durham rowing going forwards and will produce more Olympians and hopefully produce more Olympic champions in the future."
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. 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. Callum Plant, 15, 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.”
Aidan Rushford, 13, also attends Belmont Community School. He added: “Team Durham, through the sculling camp and ergo technique programme last year, really helped boost my confidence both in the sport of rowing and as a person. Particularly at sculling camp in the summer, I was nervous at the beginning of the week about going on the rough water of the Tyne, but by the end of the week felt like I had overcome another hurdle.“ The core strength programme with the strength and conditioning coaches has also helped me immensely and with the whole of the University behind me I have been afforded opportunities I would have never have had before.”
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 had never rowed until they started their degree at Durham University.
In the summer, second year student Lily van den Broecke came away with gold as a rowing cox at the Paralympics. Stephen Rowbotham, who won bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and was a finalist at London 2012, said: "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."
Around 12 Durham graduates, who have gone onto compete at Olympic level, will be presented with commemorative oars which will be displayed in the rowing facility. 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.