At my primary school, in Glasgow, we had really good teachers who gave up lunchtimes and after school to take sport. I was in clubs for swimming, badminton, cross-country, we would run to the local loch. At my secondary school, Bearsden Academy, in Glasgow, my art teacher, Mr Davis, ran a karate class at lunchtimes and I took it up. By the time I left school six years later I was a black belt.
How did you get involved in rowing?
By accident, and not until I was at Edinburgh University. In the first year, I was in the four, we won the universities title, and then I was selected for Scotland at 19.
Did you excel at other sports?
Apart from karate, I was jack of all trades, master of none. I played team sports – hockey and netball – and held the school record for high jump and competed for the county at cross-country, high jump and 400 metres. Doing the karate never felt like an effort.
What is your view on how sport is delivered at school?
Kids can be inspired at that school age – without necessarily thinking about a career in sport. Variety is the key with a wide range of sports. That’s why Lloyds TSB National School Sports Week this summer is so important after the Olympics and Paralympics.
Who were your heroes when you were growing up?
The Olympians of the Eighties: Daley Thompson, Carl Lewis.
Most memorable sporting moment at school?
Probably getting the black belt. It was a massive step for me, because my teacher believed in me. When I got it, he gave me the first black belt he had ever been given. I still have it. It was the realisation that you can have dreams, and you can achieve them, with enjoyment and hard work.
What advice would you give to school children wanting to pursue a career in sport?
Go for it, but make sure it is always fun. Believe you can do it, and succeeding can be a case of try, try, try and try again. I can honestly say the best friends I have made in life have been in sport.
Interview Gareth Davies
Courtesy of The Telegraph