A reunion with inspirational coach
Published at 09:11, Monday, 27 August 2012
WHEN Matt Wells took up the sport of rowing as a 13-year-old, he was described as a gangly, skinny kid with a shock of red hair.
These were the words used by his first coach, influential founder of Queen Elizabeth High School Rowing Club, Chris Grabham, who inspired many a teenager at the school club during his 25-year spell at the Hexham school.
Under Chris’ leadership, Matt soon bulked up and, before long, was causing shockwaves in national junior competitions.
This week, the former coach met up with his most famous pupil as he returned to his former stamping ground of Tyne Green from his home in Canada specially for the Matt Wells Jubilee Sprint Regatta.
Thinking of all Matt has achieved since joining QEHS, Chris is filled with immense pride and he was pleased he could be present at Matt’s send-off.
He said: “When Matt invited me, I said I wouldn’t miss it for the world and I have only come back to England for a few days.
“What he has achieved is simply incredible and I can’t really describe how proud I am of him because he is such a great guy.
“It is remarkable to hear Matt say he owes a lot to me and he recognises that I helped him a little bit when all you need to do with Matt is give him a little push and then he is off!
“I have followed his career and kept in touch when I’ve been in Canada, and a lot of people over there know who Matt Wells is!”
Matt joined Chris at the rowing club to complement his promising athletics career, but he took to the sport like a duck to water.
It proved a good choice when he made the switch to rowing, going on to become one of the best the country has ever produced.
Chris said: “When Matt came into the club, I could tell straight away he was a special kid and knew almost immediately he was going to achieve something fantastic. He had big dreams and was so determined, and he was highly competitive and highly motivated.
“He worked so hard and put everything into it, and he deserves all he has achieved. I am chuffed to bits for Matt.”
The club at QEHS has blossomed since Chris set it up way back in 1979 and it is a real force to be reckoned with at a national level. Under current coach Pauline Higgins, the club tops the British Rowing’s league table chart for school clubs and produces many champions at national and regional level.
Hearing Matt’s story of how he progressed through the club has been a real inspiration to many youngsters at the school – and is sure to be more effective in the coming years.
Pauline said: “It is such a privilege to have Olympic athletes come down and race here. Our young rowers are in their element, enjoying it so much by collecting autographs and mixing with the Olympians.
“On the back of the Olympics, we usually do see a surge in interest and hopefully we can raise the money to cope with demand.”
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk