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Happy homecoming for rowing golden girl Kat Copeland
AFTER all the hoopla and as the great and the good dined upstairs, Kat Copeland was hard at work.
The modest 21-year-old, the North-East’s first woman gold medallist, was downstairs in the heart of the Tees Rowing Club boatroom, away from the grand party thrown in her honour.
There she spent an hour being photographed and chatting with queues of children inspired by the region’s latest sporting hero.
It wasn’t Hollywood glamour, but it was everything that is best in sport – a dedicated, hard working, young athlete inspiring others.
Outside, the wind and rain drove hard, a reminder of the weather Kat has trained in countless times on her way to glory in the lightweight women’s double sculls.
In between signing autographs, she spoke about the tumult that has followed her achievement.
She said: “I had no idea about all this attention at home while I was in London. It’s amazing to me just that people know who I am.
“I’ve had so many treats and so many cards from people here, but if kids see this and want to take up sport, that would be amazing.”
Surrounded as she was by boats, she said: “I just want to get back in one of these and row.”
Earlier, there had rightly been a big fuss of the golden girl, who grew up in Ingleby Barwick, and now lives in Stokesley . She had arrived in a golden Bentley and emerged to a barrage of media questions.
Yes, she said, she had slept with the medal in her room, and yes, she was proud of being from Teesside and pleased to be home.
She was presented to a wet, but undoubtedly proud, gathering of wellwishers accompanied by a shower of confetti and Spandau Ballet’s Gold.
One of the cheering crowd, Karen Harley, of Stockton, said a bit of wind and rain would never have kept her away.
“After all, Kat was out here, she wouldn’t stop training just because it rained a bit, and now we should come out for her.”
Steve Hamer, from Stockton, who is in the Navy and worked on security at the Olympics, said: “She has said how proud she is of coming from Teesside, and that inspired us to come here to say how proud we are of her.”
Others in the crowd said how down to earth Kat seems, sentiments echoed by John Green, president of Tees Rowing Club, and her mother, Penny, who said: “When she won, and you see how delighted and happy she was, I just thought, ‘that’s so Katherine’.
“It’s funny, she’s coping very well with all the attention, better than the rest of the family. We’re all hoping it will calm down a bit after tonight.”
And what of the future? Kat, already used to being asked whether she will continue with rowing, or devote herself to studying at university, plays the question for laughs.
“I’m off on holiday,” she said.
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