Pupils in awe as Olympic hero Alex visits former school
GASPS of awe rippled through the main hall of The Richard Pate Primary School in Cheltenham when Olympic hero Alex Gregory dropped by.
The 28-year-old, who won gold in the men's coxless fours rowing this summer, paid a visit to the Leckhampton school where he used to be a pupil.
Some of the teachers who taught Alex as a youngster were on hand to welcome him, including his former head teacher Lynn Rowland, who has now retired.
Now, towering over them all at six foot, six inches, Alex gave an inspirational talk to teachers and pupils on how hard he had worked to achieve his dream.
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Youngsters could barely contain their excitement as they got to touch his gold medal.
Alex, who grew up in nearby village Wormington, said: "It was great to come back.
"I can't believe it has been so long since I was here.
"They have extended a few of the classrooms but by and large it is exactly as I remember it.
"I enjoyed talking to the pupils and they came up with some excellent questions.
"What I wanted to get across to them was whatever they are into, whether it's sport, drama, music or whatever, it's important they give it their best shot and take the opportunities that come their way."
Alex told his eager audience how he had first taken up sport at the school, showing an early promise in cross country and swimming.
Questions flew from the inquisitive youngsters – with dozens of pupils raising their hands to have a say.
How tall are you? What do you eat for breakfast? And are your muscles as big as half a grapefruit? – were just some things they were keen to know.
After going on a tour of the premises, Alex settled down to sample the delights of the school canteen. And dozens of beady eyes were watching the Olympic-sized portions taken on by the champion oarsman.
Former teacher Jacqueline Miller-Howell said: "I remember him when he was only small and to see him now and what he has achieved is amazing."
Robert MacDonald, head teacher at the school, said: "We were delighted Alex was able to pay us a visit.
"He was lovely with the young people and I think all our 302 pupils got to touch the medal which was great.
"It's fantastic for them to hear first-hand that all the hard work and training Alex put in really paid off, and that you can reach such heights while still upholding values of good sportsmanship.
"He's a true champion and we are incredibly proud of him."