Olympic legend inspires Petroc students ahead of ‘biggest’ challenge
- Credit: Archant
Double Olympic gold winning rower James Cracknell visits college in preparation for European Parliament bid
Olympic rowing hero James Cracknell says he is facing ‘the biggest’ challenge of his life in standing to become a Member of European Parliament in 2014.
The double Olympic and six-time World champion rower visited Petroc in Barnstaple on Friday as part of a tour of the South West to drum up support and inspire young people to take a greater interest in politics.
“I think it’s probably the biggest challenge I’ve undertaken, because in anything I’ve done previously you are in total control – if you train well, race well you’ll get the result you deserve – whereas in politics, you can ask people for their vote but it’s up to them whether they trust that you’re going to deliver what you’re saying,” he said.
“It’s a different, exciting challenge.”
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Mr Cracknell, who has a son called Croyde and has a home in the town, also established himself as one of the world’s premier adventure athletes by taking on a series of remarkable challenges, including rowing the Atlantic Ocean and taking on the South Pole with TV’s Ben Fogle, as well as numerous triathlons and marathons. He then had to overcome life-threatening injuries in 2010 after being hit by a petrol tanker while cycling.
He added that it was important for young people to take a more active interest in politics, and hoped that his profile as someone not from a ‘traditional political background’ might help.
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“Just because you’ve been good at one thing doesn’t stop you trying to do something else and if you have a target in anything, irrespective of where you are now, if you plan a way of getting there you can do far more than you think.
“It’s been a good day, I’ve not only met the students but I’ve been grilled by them, and it’s always interesting to hear the different questions they come up with and what they want to know about.
“For me, it’s getting to know every part of the region and the issues that are affecting people there and say why they should go out and vote Conservative.”
As well as getting to know the area he will stand in next year, South West England and Gibraltar, the rower and adventure athlete also made time to meet many of the students and did an interview for student radio station Fresh FM.
“He’s been fantastic with the students,” said Petroc’s Head of the school of health and fitness Kevin Hazell. “He was put in front of the academy and answered a bunch of questions and he’s really inspired them.
“Having someone of this calibre coming in has to be good. He’s given a lot of advice and this will let them go away and become better.”
Conservative candidate for North Devon Peter Heaton-Jones said the party were ‘very lucky’ to have Mr Cracknell on board.
“James is a lot taller and more good-looking than I’ll ever be,” he joked. “So it will definitely attract a different kind of audience, and certainly someone like James coming here does help a new demographic of people find politics interesting.
“This isn’t a sudden decision that James has taken to get into politics; he decided he would do it five years ago before he had his accident. This has been a long term aim and James knows very well what the issues are, so I’ve no doubt whatsoever that he will make a very good MEP.”