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Olympic champions rewarded by Queen in New Year honours
Published 07/01/13

TWO of Leander Club’s Olympic champions and a Team GB coach were recognised in the New Year honours.

Alex Gregory, who won gold in the men’s four at London 2012, and Anna Watkins, who won gold in the women’s double scull with Katherine Grainger, were made MBEs.

The same honour went to Robin Williams, who coached the winning women’s pair of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning.

Pamela Relph, who is also a member of Leander, and Caversham-based rower Naomi Riches were made MBEs after winning gold in the LTA mixed coxed four at the Paralympics.

The rowers were among a host of heroes from the Olympics who were honoured, including gold medallist and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and Ben Ainslie, the most decorated sailor in Olympic history, who were both knighted.

Mr Williams, 53, of Makins Road, Henley, took a break from top-level coaching to run Totally Outdoors, an outdoor clothes and accessories shop in Makins Road, Henley.

He returned to rowing in 2010 to coach Glover and Stanning, whose victory in London was Team GB’s first ever women’s Olympic rowing gold.

Mr Williams said it was a “huge surprise” to discover he had been honoured and when his letter arrived he had feared it was a parking fine.

He said: “It’s one of those things that you know happens every year and isn’t even remotely on your radar because it seems like something for other people.

“It’s good for rowing. It’s a great sport and to be recognised for the success of the rowing teams and all the people involved is very nice.”

Mr Williams previously coached the men’s lightweight four at the Atlanta and Beijing Games, which finished 10th and fifth respectively. He is now coaching crews in preparation for the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Gregory, 28, from Nettlebed, said: “It is a fantastic honour to be made an MBE and a credit to the team that supported me and my crew in the run-up to the Olympics.

“I am proud to accept it on behalf of my support team and particularly my family who have supported me through all the highs and lows over many years.”

Gregory, who helped paint a postbox in Hart Street gold to mark the achievement of the Leander rowers, added: “2012 will be a year we will never forget.”

Watkins, 29, from Wokingham, said it was “lovely” to be honoured.

“You don’t expect it and the best thing is you can take your mum to Buckingham Palace with you,” she said.

The double world rowing champion celebrated her achievement with a glass of champagne with her coach Paul Thompson, who was also made an MBE.

Grainger, from Maidenhead, was awarded a CBE for services to rowing, seven years after she was made an MBE. She had won silver at three Olympics and six world championship titles before winning gold at London 2012.

Riches, 29, who trains at the Redgrave-Pinsent Lake in Caversham, said: “It’s just an amazing end to the year.

“It has gone so quickly and so many things have happened, so to be rewarded in this way at the end of it is incredible.”

She won bronze in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and is a five-times world rowing champion. Relph, 23, from Aylesbury, said the honour marked “an amazing end to an amazing year”.

In a message posted on Twitter, she said: “To be named on the New Year’s honours list and receive an MBE is one of my proudest moments.”

Relph has won two world championship titles since she began rowing two years ago. Meanwhile, two Leander Club members were knighted in the honours.

Sir David Tanner was honoured for services to rowing and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

He has been British Rowing’s performance director since 1996. He introduced the Start programme, which produced half of GB’s 10 Olympic champions in London, and launched Great Britain’s Paralympic rowing programme which produced two golds in Beijing and one in London.

Sir David said: “I am very proud to have been recognised in this way. While this is an honour for me personally, I see it also as an honour and recognition for the sport of rowing.

“Rowing is truly a team sport and our Olympic and Paralympic success in London and before has been down to exceptional rowers and the front-line and backroom women and men who give them such outstanding coaching and support.”

Sir David Wootton, 61, was knighted for services to legal business, charity and the City of London.

He was elected Sheriff of the City of London in 2009 and is a former Lord Mayor of London.

He presented the prizes at last year’s Henley Royal Regatta and was made a steward of the regatta last month.

Published 07/01/13

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