Team GB’s Olympic and Paralympic rowers got a heroes’ welcome back in Henley this morning.
Crowds lined the riverbank and streets waving flags for the athletes that competed in Tokyo 2020. The rowers started the event with a row past from Leander Club up to the River & Rowing Museum and back up to Upper Thames Rowing Club before returning to Leander.
The rowers then boarded an open top bus which followed a marching band over the bridge, down Hart Street, Bell Street, New Street, back up Hart Street to the Town Hall. Sports presenter and commentator, Peter O’Hanlon then introduced the rowers to the crowd who came down the steps of the town hall underneath an archway of oars held by Henley Rowing Club and Leander Club rowers.
Henley Mayor, Councillor Sarah Miller said, “We taking rowing very seriously in Henley and we are very proud to welcome you guys home. There is so much to celebrate. For our Olympians a Men’s Eight bronze, silver for our Men’s Quad and six fourth places finishes including Vicky Thornley who recorded our best finish as a female single sculler. In the Paralympics, both the Mixed Double Sculls and Mixed Coxed 4 took Gold, undefeated since 2010.” Paralympian, James Fox said that ‘success was a rolling momentum’ and that phrase has stayed with me after the buffeting of the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo and the buffeting we all took in the last 18 months of Covid. We are all due a celebration and as crews, as a town and as a country we have that rolling momentum that James was talking about ready for Paris in 2024 and ready for what the future will bring us all. Olympians, Paralympians we salute you, Henley salutes you, yesterday, today, tomorrow we all salute you. Thank you all. Congratulations.”
Captain of Leander and silver medallist of Men’s Quad, Jack Beaumont said, “Huge thank you for you all coming out today. It’s great to be back home from Tokyo and to finally spend time in our community after such a long time of restrictions. The pandemic has been turbulent and in many cases tragic. Last March, when the country closed up and life seemed to stop in the way we knew it for us the show went on. Lockdown for months, with just a rowing machine for company, our team of extraordinary athletes trained alone. Gyms, lakes and rivers were replaced by garages, kitchens and living rooms. Hours of hard graft, all in the pursuit of representing our country at the greatest show of earth. Thank you to all rowing clubs. All of us started rowing as hobby, a hobby that has got way out of hand! We are lucky to have several rowing clubs in Henley so if you’re interested and excited by what you have seen please go and find those clubs and give rowing a try. You will really enjoy it. Finally I would like to thank our friends and family and all of you the Henley community for backing us. It has been an honour to represent our country and our town and we will keep working off our backsides to give you something to cheer for in the future and bring back even more medals next time.”
Henley Town Council organised the parade with Leander Club and provided flags and chocolate medals for the families today.
Afterwards the crowds got the chance to meet, get autographs and talk to all the rowers and to hold and try on the very heavy medals.
Congratulations to all.