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James Cracknell opens new sports facility – University of Reading

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James Cracknell opens new sports facility

Release Date 16 February 2007

Olympic gold medallist and former University of Reading student James Cracknell MBE has opened a new multi-million pound sports facility on Whiteknights campus.

Mr Cracknell, who graduated from Reading with a BSc in Human Geography in 1993, broke off from his busy schedule to open the new £2.23million Vo2 sports centre yesterday afternoon (Thursday February 15) – and gave some encouragement to current members of the University's rowing squad.

Along with Debbie Flood - former Reading student, gold and silver medal-winning Olympic rower and current Beijing Olympic hopeful - and university Vice-Chancellor Gordon Marshall, Mr Cracknell officially opened the new centre, and thanked all those at Reading who had supported him in getting to where he is today.

He told the audience: "The main challenge for rowers in my time was the lack of gym facilities which meant having to do weights in a cupboard that was behind the athletic pavilion bar which was still flooded with beer from the night before! But I can see the facilities are excellent now and it is great having this sort of investment in great facilities.

"When I was here in 1990, it was also difficult combining lectures and rowing, so to avoid that I used to avoid turning up to the very first tutorials of the year and then hoped the tutors would think I was in another group! But I chose Reading specifically because of its links to rowing and its location on the Thames, and I have some great memories of my time here."

Miss Flood, 26, who studied Physiology and Biochemistry and graduated from Reading in 2005, said: "The facilities here are clearly excellent. When I was here, every effort was made to try and fit my lectures round my rowing, and for that I am extremely grateful. Everyone gave me huge amounts of support and I couldn't have done it without that support."

Vo2 now caters for more than 5,000 members – including Olympic hopeful and University of Reading student Anna Bebington who chatted to Mr Cracknell today - 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.

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.

James also chatted to Reading student Tash Page, a former World Under 23 champion who has also represented GB at junior and senior level, was part of the eight that won a bronze medal at the Eton World Cup in May 2005, took bronze in that event at the World Cup finals in Lucerne in July 2005, and went on to be part of the women's eight that performed so well at the 2005 World Championships in Japan, finishing fifth. During the 2006 World Cup, she finished 6th in Munich, then took a bronze in Poznan, finishing off with 4th place in Lucerne. At the 2006 World Championships at Eton the GB women's eight finished eighth.

Ends

Note for editors:

We have profiles and photos of all our Olympic rowing scholars. Please let me know if you would like copies.

Lucy Ferguson, Senior Press Officer, Reading University 0118 378 7388 L.Ferguson@reading.ac.uk

More information about Vo2

The new Fitness Studio is state of the art. Much consideration has been given to the design and equipment specification in order to make this one of the best sports and fitness facilities in Reading. It will be split over two levels. The ground floor will have a vastly improved range of fixed and functional strength equipment. A new and extensive free weights area will now be located on the ground floor. The first floor will house an extensive range of new cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills, cross-trainers, cycles, rowers and steppers. Within this much larger area we will be offering two styles of entertainment. There will be a cardio theatre area with four 42-inch plasma screens offering members the choice of viewing the latest sports action, music videos, news or entertainment. Other equipment will have personal viewing screens with a large number of viewing options. Our new Yoga Studio will allow a greater range of Active Lifestyles Courses to be offered. Our extensive course programme runs each term and includes five different types of yoga, Pilates, salsa, Indian dance and street dance. Cardiovascular kit totals: 17 treadmills, 17 cross trainers, 12 upright cycles, six recumbent cycles, four steppers, one upper body ergo meter, eight concept, two rowers. Strength and conditioning kit: extensive range of fixed resistance machines, free motion functional training circuit, extensive plate loaded and dumbbell equipment.

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