Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Olympic hockey star opens Langtree pitch

AN Olympic hockey player opened a new £227,000 artificial sports pitch at Langtree School in Woodcote.

AN Olympic hockey player opened a new £227,000 artificial sports pitch at Langtree School in Woodcote.

Helen Richardson, 33, who was part of the GB team that won bronze in London in 2012, gave a short talk to all 570 pupils about her career.

The youngsters drummed on the ground and shouted out a countdown before she cut the ribbon and thne they cheered loudly.

They waved and grinned as she took a video of the scene on her mobile phone and captured a selfie with the children behind her.

The first football was kicked by  15-year-old Jack Lewington, who took a penalty against PE teacher Andrew Unsworth.

Millie Hine, 11, then hit the first hockey ball at fellow student and junior Oxfordshire county goalkeeper Rosie Turtle, 13.

Richardson, a midfielder, then took three shots at Rosie, who managed to save one.

Rosie, who started playing hockey a year ago, said: “It was really exciting to play against her. We’re all really happy that the pitch is open.”

Richardson said: “I was very impressed with Rosie. She has got great technique and I think she’s a little superstar in the making.”

The rest of the day’s lessons were called off and the whole school took part in a sports tournament. The academy school in Reading Road had wanted an artificial pitch since 2006 but struggled to find funding.

In 2013 it secured a £109,000 grant from Sport England and made up the rest through fund-raising and  sponsorship.

South Oxfordshire District Council granted planning permission in August and construction started in April.

The 2,400 sq m pitch is lit by six columns of floodlights and can be used for various sports including hockey, netball, five-a-side football and tag rugby. It will be used by primary schools in neighbouring villages and will be available for hire by sports clubs and youth and community groups.

The pitch can be used until 8.30pm during the week, 6pm on Saturdays and 5pm on Sundays.

The lights are on a timer so cannot be used outside these hours and an earth mound has been built to protect neighbours from noise.

Headteacher Rick Holroyd told pupils: “This is a really special occasion for the school because this facility is unique. Few schools have a facility like this, especially schools of our size, so I’m delighted that we can open it for you. I hope it will be used by your friends and family too as it is not just for Langtree but for Woodcote as a whole.

“We are already taking many bookings and it’s terrific that we can be at the heart of sport in the community.”

Richardson said: “It’s been a great day. I love pitch openings because they’re so important yet so often schools struggle to set them up.

“Funding is always an issue but children need facilities and good coaching to succeed in sport and it looks like they’ve got both here at Langtree.”

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