STAFF from Hobbs of Henley have told how they had fun with some of Britain’s gold medallists at the London Olympics.
They were working at Eton Dorney Lake, where the rowing and canoeing regattas took place, ferrying competitors to and from their hotel in Windsor.
Lewes Collins, James Maudlin, Darren Martin and Ed Norris operated launches Consuta, Lily-Anna and Evie. Mr Collins, 19, of Lovell Close, Henley, said: “It was a privilege to be doing it and to meet all the athletes.
“They are such normal people — sometimes they were nervous but they were always up for a chat and a good laugh.”
The men were photographed with the victorious GB men’s coxless four wearing the rowers’ gold medals after taking them from a press conference back to their hotel.
Mr Collins said: “They were ecstatic and they thanked us for all our hard work.”
The staff decided to surprise gold medallists Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins by wearing David Beckham masks after hearing that Grainger would like to meet him if they won.
Mr Maudlin, who was part of the passenger boat crew, and skipper Darren Martin managed to get hold of some Beckham masks for the women’s journey back to the Oakley Court Hotel.
Mr Maudlin, 23, from Shiplake, said: “They found it really funny — they were both laughing and taking pictures.”
The four men worked between 6am and 7pm ferrying athletes to their races and training sessions.
Mr Collins said: “We tried to keep their spirits up so we talked about racing and just had general banter on the boat, having a bit of a laugh.”
The team wore Team GB gold pin badges, which incorporated the lion emblem and the Olympic rings, and were allowed to keep these afterwards. They were also given the GB kit, including a white polo top and a cap.
The athletes gave the men some of their spare VIP finals tickets to thank them for their work and invited them for drinks and strawberries and cream at the hotel on the final day of racing.
Mr Collins said: “James, Darren and I were not really into rowing but it did inspire us as we enjoyed watching the races. Some of us are even thinking about taking it up.”
Meanwhile, Pete Reed, who was a member of the winning four, has become engaged.
The Leander rower popped the question to his German girlfriend Frauke Oltmanns during the closing ceremony on Sunday.
He was with his crewmates when he found Faruke and went down on one knee in front of the crowd as fireworks lit up the sky.
Reed, who is in the Royal Navy, is a double world champion and also won gold in the men’s four at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.