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London 2012 stars meet Harrow's budding athletes
The borough’s Olympic and Paralympic heroes went back to their roots this week to meet children competing in the youth competition they started in.
Paralympic mixed coxed fours gold medallist Naomi Riches, 29, and Olympic kayak slalom silver medallist Richard Hounslow, 30, met competitors taking part in the London Youth Games on Tuesday evening and were inducted into its hall of fame.
Harrow Weald’s Naomi, who won her second Paralympic gold at Eton Dorney last month and went to Bentley Wood School, competed for the borough in disability swimming in her teenage years.
She said: “It’s such an honour. It’s very unexpected. It’s lovely to see so many young people involved with sport at so many levels.
“Early in my career I didn’t think I’d be competing at a Paralympic level. But to be able to compete at the London Youth Games and know my disability wasn’t an issue and I could simply go and represent my borough was very important to me.
“Sport is very important for all young people. It’s the way to get away from the iPod, the iPad. We’ve become a society where a screen can become very important, but I think sport is the opposite extreme to that and it’s very important to get young people involved.”
Richard, who with his partner David Florence was pipped to the gold by fellow British pair Timothy Baillie and Etienne Stott in August, competed for Harrow in kayaking while studying at his old schools Roxbourne First and Middle School, Rooks Heath High School and Harrow College.
He said: “Obviously I remember as a 12-year-old when I started competing at the London Youth Games. It was a big deal when you’re that age competing against peers.
“It’s always nice to win so it’s fantastic for London and for all the boroughs helping to get more kids into sport.
“In Britain as a whole we’re very scared about pushing our kids into competition too early. But if we do want to succeed on the world stage or the Olympic Games then we do need to get kids into sport at a young age.
“It takes a long time to get on the world stage or the Olympics but I assure you it’s worth all the cold mornings and the tiredness and the aches because for all the downs you will have that one moment or that one medal that will stay with you for the rest of your life.”