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What a week at the Olympics for Oxfordshire
OXFORDSHIRE is reflecting on the first week of the Olympic Games, after playing an integral role both on and off the pitch.
London 2012 opened with Oxford’s rising rowing star Cameron MacRitchie lighting the Olympic cauldron in front of a global audience of a billion people.
Among the army of drummers at the opening ceremony was Tom Peters from Abingdon.
Mr Peters, 25, from Sellwood Road in Abingdon, moved to London last year to study drumming.
He auditioned for the Olympic opening ceremony, and last Friday night was in the stadium opposite renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie playing to a worldwide audience.
Proud mum Anna Peters, 55, was watching at home in Abingdon.
She said: “It was truly magnificent in every way, but it was made even more sensational for us by knowing that Tom was a part of it all.”
Eileen Naughton, from Didcot, was also one of the 1,000 drummers at Danny Boyle’s spectacular show, even though she had never touched a drum before in her life.
Miss Naughton, 30, said she was still on cloud nine a week later.
She said: “I was so lucky. What an awesome experience, to be among the athletes who had waited their whole life for this moment.”
Also at the opening was Oxford Town Crier Anthony Church, helping marshall athletes.
Servicemen from RAF Brize Norton were involved in flag ceremonies and there was even a guest appearance by Oxfordshire's Rowan Atkinson.
Eight pupils from Thame’s John Hampden Primary School formed a guard of honour for the Honduran athletes as they entered the stadium.
Teacher Carol Storey said: “The look of surprise and pleasure on the athletes’ faces was something I will always remember.
“They all ran towards us and took their own photos of the homemade flag and the children who were there to support them.”
Mr MacRitchie, 19, from Banbury Road, lit the Olympic cauldron at the end of the Opening ceremony along with six other young athletes.
He is now hoping to play an even more pivotal role in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, on the UK rowing team.
If he does he will emulate 65-year-old rower Ken Lester, who remains the nation’s youngest male Olympian after competing as a 13-year-old cox in the 1960 Rome Games.
Mr Lester, who watched the rowing at Eton Dorney yesterday, said: “I had a wonderful time. I took my eldest granddaughter Charlotte, 11. “It is all a lot larger and busier now. Going back to 1960 it was all very amateurish, people had to take time off work to compete.
“Today I was virtually surrounded by Olympians, and we were sat right in front of the finish line.
“It was terrific,” he added.
And as the week drew to a close, county rowers had brought home coveted medals.
On Friday, Anna Watkins, who rows for the Leander Club in Henley, took gold in the double sculls.
On Thursday morning, two Oxford Brookes University students bagged Britain a silver medal in the lightweight men’s four rowing.
Richard and Peter Chambers, Oxford Brookes graduate and undergraduate respectively, along with team-mates Rob Williams and Chris Bartley, were just pipped to the post by the South African team.
On Thursday afternoon, Caroline O’Connor, the UK womens’ rowing team cox and an Oxford Mail columnist, led the boat to fifth place in the final.
Yesterday, there was gold for the Leander Club’s Anna Watkins and her team-mate Katherine Grainger in the women’s double sculls.
Today, Wallingford’s Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter from the Leander Club go in the men’s lightweight double sculls final.
And Andy Triggs Hodge, from Oxford, goes in the men’s four final.
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