RECORD-BREAKING Olympic champion Nicola Adams and double gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes put North East students to the test yesterday.
The sporting stars were joined at Gateshead College by hockey bronze medallist Alex Danson and world freestyle football champion Andrew Newman as they led more than 450 students in boxing and football masterclasses to kick-start a new collaboration between the college and Kelly Holmes Education.
The programme aims to create champions of the future, while boosting students’ employability.
Dame Kelly said: “The programme is for all levels, from amateur athletes to those who want to perform or coach professionally. The 2012 Games are already inspiring people and I’m sure there will be students here who will be hoping to be at Rio 2016, or the 2020 Games.”
Nicola, who was amongst the sporting stars to start the Great North Run on Sunday, said: “All of the opportunities I have had since winning gold have been fantastic. I got lots of tweets after the Great North Run from people who said the high-five they got from me helped them to run quicker.
“I wanted to do boxing from the first time I stepped inside the gym. It’s a very friendly sport and the people I train with are like family.”
She added: “At the Olympics, I was so focused on what I had to do that I didn’t really have time to think about becoming the first woman to win gold.
“It’s only just dawning on me now about the scale of the achievement. If it inspires others to take up the sport that would be amazing.”
Athletics student Hazel Webster-Costella, 17, from Hebburn, South Tyneside, said: “It’s amazing to be able to meet someone like Kelly Holmes who has been a real inspiration to me and my running.
“Through the programme, I hope to work on my performance but also to learn about things behind-the-scenes.
“I am planning on going to university and studying physiotherapy, biomedicine or sports science.”
Boxing student Liam Kelly, 18, from Consett, County Durham, added: “This is a good opportunity for the students and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have a masterclass with Nicola Adams.
“I watched a lot of the Olympics and it was really inspiring. Seeing people win gold really makes you think ‘could I do that?’ and it makes you try harder.
“I’ve been boxing for three years and I want to take it as far as I possibly can. This partnership at the college will help me achieve that.”
Principal Richard Thorold said: “This partnership is an exciting and significant step for the college.
“The masterclasses with professional athletes and coaches will give our students the opportunity to learn from experts who know exactly what it takes to become champions.
“I’m not a sports coach and Dame Kelly isn’t a teacher, but she has a unique coaching style and together we have created a package that will help students reach their potential.
“And it won’t just be exclusively for the sports students, all of our students will be able to benefit.”
I’m sure there will be students here who will be hoping to be at Rio 2016, or the 2020 Games