Harrow’s Olympic and Paralympic heroes were honoured for their triumphs today and spoke to the next generation of budding athletes about their inspirations.
Paralympic rower Naomi Riches, who took gold in the LTA mixed coxed fours last week, and Olympic silver medallist Richard Hounslow, who competed at London 2012 in the men’s C-2 canoe slalom, were guests of honour at a reception at Harrow Civic Centre this afternoon.
The duo, wearing their team tracksuits and medals, received a ceremonial jewellery box and pin badge from the Mayor of Harrow, Councillor Nizam Ismail, and spoke to students from their old schools about their experiences with Team GB.
Richard, who with his partner David Florence was pipped to the gold by fellow British pair Timothy Baillie and Etienne Stott last month, answered questions from children at his old schools Roxbourne First and Middle School, Rooks Heath High School and Harrow College.
Asked whether years of intensive training had paid off, the 30-year-old said: “Without a doubt. When I first started my sport it wasn’t in the Olympics – it only came in in 1992.
“From then on all I ever wanted to do was get Olympic gold, and the only way to do that is through hard work and sacrifices.”
Harrow Weald’s Naomi, who won her second Paralympic gold at Eton Dorney last week and went to Bentley Wood School, told how she had been inspired to compete after watching disabled athletes triumphing in previous Games.
She said: “The people who inspired me are the ones who have got incredible disabilities.
“It’s people like them that make me want to work hard each day – it’s a life choice rather than a job but it’s all worth it in the end.
“There are lot of downs but there are an awful lot of highs as well.”
Both were coy over their chances of competing in four years time at Rio 2016, with Naomi saying she “would like to think” she would defend her title.
The children posed for photos with the athletes and played with their huge London 2012 medals as Cllr Ismail paid tribute to their work representing the borough.
He said: “We thank you for the incredible work you have done to project the image of Harrow to all over the UK, not just London.”