Posted on 05/11/2009
Rodrigo Ideus, Helene Raynsford, and Sophie Christiansen
On Wednesday 4 November, elite student athletes studying at Royal Holloway, University of London gathered together for the annual STARS Awards evening, held in the College’s stunning Picture Gallery. Present were Beijing Paralympics double-gold and silver medallist, Sophie Christiansen, gold medallist Helene Raynsford, and Olympic rower Rodrigo Ideus.
Helene, who has received support from the STARS programme, studied Medical Biochemistry at the College as an undergraduate, and has this year decided to return to study a MSc in Human Neuroscience. She made history by winning Gold in the arms-only single sculls event, the first time rowing has been a Paralympic sport. Something of a pioneer, Helene was the first ever winner of the women′s arms-only single scull category at the 2006 Rowing World Championships.
The Student Talented Athlete Recognition Scheme (STARS) provides a support network for elite student athletes at Royal Holloway who are competing or aiming to compete at the very top level of their sport. The scheme helps students reach their full potential in both sporting and academic life, whilst supporting them with the same level of effort, enthusiasm and dedication that they show in training.
Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer, Chris Holmes MBE, was guest speaker at this year’s event. His inspiring talk entertained the crowd and was a major source of inspiration for Royal Holloway’s STARS athletes, many of whom have similar aspirations to represent their country at the Olympic Games. Chris, who is a nine times Olympic gold medallist, was a member of Great Britain’s swimming team for 16 years, despite losing his sight overnight when aged only 14.
The new influx of STARS students who have been welcomed to the College this year all compete at an elite level in a wide range of sports, including netball, football, cheerleading, athletics, swimming and tennis.
Commenting on being a STARS student, athletics competitor Haris Adu, said, “STARS is providing me with a lot of support and encouragement to help me reach my goal – to become an international elite athlete. I feel honoured to be here.”
Since the initiative began, STARS has supported nine Olympians and Paralympians and over 60 athletes with world and national rankings.