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James Cracknell to open new University sports facility – University of Reading

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James Cracknell to open new University sports facility

Release Date 29 January 2007

Olympic gold medallist and former University of Reading student James Cracknell MBE will open a new fitness facility on the Whiteknights Campus next month. Mr Cracknell, who graduated from Reading with a BSc in Human Geography in 1993, will officially open the new £2.23million Vo2 fitness centre – the jewel in the crown of the University's sports facilities - on February 15 2007. The centre now caters for more than 5,000 members – including Olympic hopeful and University of Reading student Anna Bebington - and is open to University and non-University members, such as local residents. It underwent a huge refit and extension in late 2006, making it one of the most well-equipped gyms in the area. New equipment worth £230,000 is now available for members to use. Iain Akhurst, the University's director of sport and recreation, said: "We are delighted James has agreed to officially open the new centre. He is one of our most distinguished sports alumni, and there are still people working at the sports centre who remember him when he was here. "Unfortunately James may recall that he actually had to train on our sole rowing machine, housed in the Athletics Pavilion, and had to collect the key from a member of staff. Needless to say, our equipment is slightly more sophisticated now and we have several high profile rowing champions who train here. The increasing popularity of the sport is mainly down to people like James and his incredible dedication to the sport. We are very proud to have him here." The new sports centre has a light and airy feel and easily matches private clubs locally. David Givens, Vo2's fitness manager said: "We carefully selected our extensive range of equipment so it would be suitable for people who have never used a gym before through to our sports scholars who do very specific functional training for their sport." There are now 26 students at Reading on Sports Scholarships, including eleven rowing scholars, one of whom is Olympic hopeful and Maths student Anna Bebington. Anna is a former World Under 23 champion, and took Gold at Munich 2006, fourth at the 2006 World Cup in Poznan and Silver in Lucerne. At the World Championships at Eton, in August 2006, she was fourth in the women's double. She is currently the fastest Women sculler in the country. Hockey has also come under the spotlight in recent years, as the University has attracted talented players to its hockey club and is able to offer hockey scholarships. Andrew Todd and Jonty Clarke , both from Reading Hockey Club, were both part of the team in 1999 who reached the British Universities Sports Association (BUSA) Cup final and are both currently representing England in the Men's senior side. Richard Springham, also from Reading Hockey Club and currently in his 2nd year at the University of Reading, has recently secured a place in the England Academy and has represented England U21s. ends Notes for editors: Media are welcome to attend the event. Please contact Lucy Ferguson if you wish to attend - thanks. Lucy Ferguson, Senior Press Officer, Reading University 0118 378 7388 L.Ferguson@reading.ac.uk

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