Pupils left star-struck at Olympians’ visit to Oxford

About 600 girls had the chance to meet some of their favourite sporting stars on a special day of sports in Oxford yesterday.

The 14 to 18-year-olds from 39 schools across England met Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Gunnell, skeleton bobsleigh Winter Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams and Team GB rower from Oxford, Katie Greves.

Students from across Oxfordshire including Oxford High School, Cheney School and, St Helens & St Katherine’s in Abingdon joined pupils from as far as Newcastle at Headington School in Headington Road for the ‘sporting conference’.

The former track and field athlete, who picked up her gold medal in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, said: “For me I just think it’s going to be a life-changing day for these girls today. Gunnell, 49, officially unveiled the school’s brand new multi-million dance and fitness centre.

“This is the kind of age where girls are deciding what they want to do and I’m so excited for them that they have the chance to get inspired by events like today.”

Amy Williams, 32, who won gold in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, gave a speech at the event.

She told the Guardian: “When I was the age of some of these girls I never really had these opportunities so I think this is such a good idea.

“It’s been such a lovely day and I’ve felt a really good vibe from the girls here today, who I’m sure will have been inspired by who they’ve met and what they’ve had the chance to do today.

Headington School pupil Liv Newall, 15, from Noke, said: “The best part of the day was the speeches. Amy Williams was really inspiring and it was great to hear what she’s done and hear about her experiences.”

Cheney School pupil Katherine Smart, 18, from Headington, said: “I have just enjoyed the variety of things to do. There’s a range of useful things and I am learning quite a lot.”

The students took part in various workshops including training in the gym with England Women’s Rugby World Cup winners Rocky Clark and Kat Merchant, to competing in a rowing taster with Greves.

She said: “Everybody is really pumped up and rearing to go. I think the girls are getting really inspired by the chance to give rowing a go. Greves, 33, a former Headington School pupil and English teacher at Oxford Academy, said she ‘relished’ the chance to motivate the teenagers.

“I hope that a few of them decide to pursue it because we’ve seen some really talented potential rowers here today.”