Katherine Grainger comes to Woodbridge
Catherine Larner reports on an inspirational evening, with thanks to Bridget Wijnberg, Lyn Gameson and Simon Robertson-Young for taking photographs.
Despite terrible weather conditions, an audience of 250 gathered at Woodbridge Community Hall on Friday 11 October to hear Olympic Gold champion rower Katherine Grainger speak about her autobiography ‘Dreams Do Come True’.
Britain’s most successful female rower – winning silver at three consecutive Olympic Games before gold at London 2012 – Katherine had driven 100 miles across country to be at the event, on the invitation of local independent bookshop, Browsers.
The community-minded shop had wanted to help raise funds for a new boat to cater for the growing female membership at the town’s rowing club, and Katherine was impressed with their ambition and made room in her formidable diary of engagements to be there.
The hall was bedecked in bunting and union jacks, and the audience broke into spontaneous applause as a video clip of Katherine’s winning race was played to open the evening. “It took us back to the moment,” said one member of the crowd which had travelled from Kent, Essex, Norwich, Cambridgeshire as well as all over Suffolk. “We were back there reliving London 2012 and all it meant to us.”
Katherine had rushed straight from her car onto stage, yet was relaxed, poised, articulate and entertaining as she told the story of her career in rowing, the Olympic ‘journey’ and her successful initiation into writing: her book has been included in the longlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.
Then, with a flourish, she revealed the new boat which was sitting on stage behind her. The Swift, Club A, lightweight double had been named the ‘Katherine Grainger’ in her honour, explained chairman of Deben Rowing Club, William Notcutt. It was paid for through funds raised from the evening and by the ladies section at the club and will be used exclusively by them.
The new boat will serve as a fitting reminder of the evening. Katherine’s humility, determination, hard work and application were an inspiration to all who heard her and the queue to have books signed stretched all around the room.
Katherine’s visit had been scheduled to last two hours, but as time moved on she refused to cut short any of the personal interactions. Family groups came forward and she engaged in conversations, finding out personal details before making an individual inscription in each book and then leaping out of her seat with her gold medal to pose for a photograph with her admirers.
Finally, with the audience gone, Katherine still did not rush away, insisting on thanking the organisers of the event and encouraging the ladies group at Deben Rowing Club in their endeavours on and off the water. She took delight in acknowledging the time and effort that had gone into every element of the evening, including sewing metres of red and yellow bunting and baking themed gold medal biscuits, and wanted to take away souvenirs for her friends.
Everyone meeting Katherine Grainger at Woodbridge Community Hall on a wet evening in October felt they had been in the presence of a true champion in sport and in life.