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Medal-winning Olympic stars to visit Harrogate school

Olympic athletes Roger Black (left) and Beth Tweddle.

Two world-class athletes will share the stage with young achievers at a Harrogate school later this month.

Gymnast Beth Tweddle, who won bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London, and runner Roger Black, who took silver in the 400m in 1996, will be in Harrogate to address pupils, staff and parents at Ashville College’s Speech Days.

These annual ceremonies see prizes presented to pupils who have made significant contributions to academic and school life throughout the year.

Both holders of the MBE, the famous athletes are now also successful business owners and public speakers.

Each will talk about triumph in adversity, determination and the challenges of change – complementing the school’s philosophies emphasising the importance of life experience both inside the classroom and the world outside.

On Thursday, June 27, Beth Tweddle will address Ashville’s Reception and Prep School Speech Day, encouraging young pupils to reach for the stars and follow their dreams.

She said:

“It’s important to enjoy what you do and enjoy it as a hobby. I tried lots of different sports before I took up gymnastics and I learned to love it as a hobby first.

“My mum and dad were instrumental in teaching me life goals. Sport was ingrained in our family, and, with that, they taught my brother and I life skills about communication, determination and teamwork.

“They are great lessons to take with you in life. You can learn to celebrate your success but also appreciate it when those around you don’t achieve success on the day. Life is about ups and downs and how you pick yourself up after a disappointment, because that is life."

Beth was the first female gymnast to win a medal at the European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Game and even went on to make national headlines for her appearances in TV’s Dancing On Ice.

She added:

“I’d just finished the Olympics and wasn’t sure what to do next. I had to step away from elite sport and try something different - and that’s another important lesson: Unless you try, you won’t know what you can do.”

Roger Black will attend Ashville’s Senior School and Sixth Form Speech Day on Saturday, June 29, to share his insight into his 14 years of top-level competition, drawing comparisons with the world of work and our development as individuals.

He said:

“Essentially, what I hope I can do is to help inspire young people follow Ashville’s motto and be the best version of themselves.

“There are similarities in the world of sport and the world of work - both can involve overcoming adversity, adapting to change, being part of a team and learning when to lead and when to delegate.

“You may already have realised where your talents lie but that doesn’t mean you can sit back and wait for success; you may have to go and seek it out yourself.

“Essentially, even elite athletes will have faced failure along the way but that’s not what defines them. It’s how they adapt to those setbacks – and that’s the same in all walks of life and not just on the sports field.”

Head of Ashville College, Rhiannon Wilkinson, said the school was delighted to have secured two UK sporting heroes with the promise to inspire pupils remaining in education in September as well as those anticipating the challenges of university or their first years in employment.

She said:

“Both Roger and Beth have developed sound reputations for speaking on themes which echo the school’s messages both in the classroom and in assemblies.

“Of course, we try to give our pupils a good grounding in a wide range of academic subjects but our job is also to work with parents to encourage and inspire them to be future ready – whatever that may hold.

“Our co-curricular programme in particular is there to help them try something new or to stretch themselves in subjects like drama, art, sport or the natural world.

"Hopefully, hearing Roger and Beth speak will encourage them to participate in something different or outside of their usual comfort zone.”

An example is former Ashvillian, 24-year-old George Mills, son of former England football star Danny Mills.

His family background and an early interest in soccer may have suggested he was destined for a similar career as his dad - particularly as brother Stanley also progressed through the Leeds United Academy before being signed by Everton.

However, since leaving school, George has also found his feet on the running track.

Earlier this month, he took silver over 5,000m at the European Championships in Rome, only beaten by Norwegian Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

He’s also the UK’s third fastest mile runner behind Steve Cram and Sebastian Coe and was crowned the British champion over 1,500m in 2020.

As a result, George is among the hopefuls with a chance of representing Great Britain at the Paris Olympics this summer.

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