Olympic Gold Medalist Gives Inspiring Talk to Henley College Students

Multiple Gold medal winning Olympian and World Champion rower, Andrew Triggs Hodge, who also has degrees in Environmental Science, recently came into the college to talk to our Environmental Science students.

The Henley College’s second year Environmental Science students were privileged to meet Olympic rower Andrew Triggs Hodge on 10th January. Andrew, who lives locally, has Olympic gold medals from Rio, London and Beijing, as well as numerous medals from World Championships. Fewer people know that he also has degrees in Environmental Science and is currently working on the Thames Tideway Scheme, a £3.8billion project to build a 25km long super-sewer under London. Tideway will save the Thames from environmentally damaging pollution from London’s overloaded Victorian sewer network.

Whilst the students may have expected Andrew to concentrate upon environmental issues, he instead spoke for ninety minutes on the importance and benefits of failure. Surprising for a man with an MSc from Oxford, years of success at the very top of his sport and an OBE.

Andrew told the students how he was not academic or sporty at school, left with a handful of extremely indifferent GCSEs, did a ‘GNVQ in not very much’ (because he did not have the GCSEs for A levels) and then went to Staffordshire University to study Environmental Science, largely because he liked nature and did not have any better ideas. Struggling to find motivation and direction, he got a Third at the end of his first year, but a chance comment from a fellow student (“have you ever thought of rowing?”) changed his life.

Andrew’s story was one of gritty determination and constant set-backs. Some of these (for instance coming last at the Athens Olympics) would have made others give up, but Andrew saw them as positives (Athens was a lesson in teamwork which put him on the path to future Olympic golds). His life was also peppered with seemingly unrealistic ‘punts’ which paid-off, for instance applying to Oxford with poor GCSEs, a GNVQ and a run-of-the-mill degree. His abiding themes were A, take every opportunity that comes your way, no matter how daft or irrelevant it may seem – it may be the one that changes your life and B, ”failure is the manure of life” – it teaches you more than success and forces you to either change tack or work harder. The honesty of the talk was very touching and the subject-matter gripping.

Alas, the students were so enthralled with Andrew’s life story that they had only a very short time to learn about the Tideway Project, but, as one commented, “Perhaps we’ll have to ask Andrew back again”. The effect of Andrew’s talk was obvious to those observing from the back of the class. It was an exceptional opportunity for our students, for which we are extremely grateful.

For more information about any of our Earth Sciences courses (Environmental Science, Geography or Geology) please register for our next open day on Tuesday 28th January, where you will be able to discuss the course with academic staff members.