Pupils’ top coach
Dame Katherine’s class
Seventy senior pupils at a Rutherglen school who are seeking to win a place at university or excel at an upcoming job interview have received once-in-alifetime coaching from one of Britain’s top golden achievers.
Glasgow-born Dame Katherine Grainger DBE, who is Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, was recently beamed by video link into a hall in Trinity High School for a special question-and-answer session.
The rowing athlete offered invaluable advice on how the pupils can reach their starting and finishing lines in the next part of their lives’ journey.
Katherine has five Olympic medals, including a memorable gold at London 2012 and four silver medals at Sydney, Athens, Beijing and Rio.
She became the first British woman to win medals at five successive Olympic Games, and is also a six-time world champion in her gruelling sport.
After graduating from Edinburgh University with a law degree, Katherine went on to achieve an MPhil in medical law and medical ethics from Glasgow University.
And in May 2013, she completed a PhD in the sentencing of homicide at King’s College, University of London.
Twenty-seven business management students, 27 Higher PE pupils, 10 members of Trinity High’s netball team, and six members of the school’s growth mindset group packed the school hall to hear words of inspiration from the remarkable woman.
The pupils - who had been researching Katherine’s glittering career - compiled a list of 20 questions which were relayed to Katherine by the school’s vice communications champion, Patrick Casey, 17, of Burnside.
They ranged from asking the Olympian’s strategy for overcoming disappointment, to inquiring about her training schedule and the sacrifices she made on her way to the top.
“I was not sure when I left school what I wanted to do with my life,” Katherine explained.
“I knew I wanted to do something that would have an impact and somehow make things better. My younger sister got bullied and I got very frustrated I could not do anything about it and how unfair that was to her because she was an amazing person having a bad experience. “I felt strongly about justice. To me, law was something that can make things better and give people a voice and make fairness a bit more achievable. “I always felt education was something I could learn from as an athlete and I was a better athlete for it. “I was also a better student because I was a rower. I was both physically fit and mentally fit.” Of all the major events in which she has competed, Katherine told Trinity High pupils that the highlight for her was undoubtedly competing in front of a home crowd at London 2012.
She said the experience was “incredibly special” and will be remembered for the rest of her life.
In response to a question about how she stays focused, Katherine advised pupils to concentrate on something they deeply want to achieve.
“It needs to be something that excites, inspires and motivates you,” she said.
“If you are trying to achieve something half-heartedly, or if someone else has told you to do it, or it is not your dream or drive or inspiration, it is easy to get distracted.”
Asked why she returned to academia after a highly successful career in sport, the star - who is currently chair of UK Sport - explained that she likes the challenge that learning presents.
“I knew I could not be an athlete forever,” she told pupils.
“Like most things, there is a time limit attached to what you can do.
“You find the next thing that you are passionate about.
“Life is full of change and new direction and a new opportunity to redefine yourself and what you stand for.”
Describing her emotions before embarking on a big race, Katherine told the pupils how she to learned to manage her faster heartbeat, her fear and anxiety, and the psychological reaction of her body preparing for what lay ahead as the adrenaline sharpened her senses.
When she became cold and exhausted sitting in a boat going backwards, she’d retreat to the warmth of the library.
And when she grew groggy in a stuffy environment surrounded by books, she’d balance this by retreating to the water.
Although she admits she did miss out on some events with family and friends due to training commitments and other obligations, Katherine revealed she doesn’t regard the few opportunities that she had to turn down as a result of her 20 years as part of the British Olympic team as sacrifices.
“That is the choice I made, and amazing things have come from that,” she said.
Golden moment Katherine and Team GB rowing partner Anna Watkins celebrate in their boat during the medal ceremony at London 2012
Cheer A big hand for Dame Katherine from pupils at Trinity High
Ambassador Dame Katherine is now chair of UK Sport