Vine James Roche and his wife, Lizzy Yarnold were our very special guests of honour at our end of year prizegiving service.

James spoke, animatedly about his job, explaining how his role with BAR involved more maths than we had in all the textbooks in the school. He also explained how he wasn’t good at, nor did he like Maths at school, but how at Vinehall, teachers like Mr Whitehead and subjects that allowed him to view and question the world differently enabled him to think more broadly and ultimately took him on his journey into engineering. It was hugely inspiring and the children realised he had been one of them and so they could be him – such a wonderful role model.

Lizzy spoke about her childhood dream of growing up of being an Olympic heptathlete, having watched Denise Lewis. She had trained so hard every day, but at 18 was told she wasn’t good enough. Her dream was shattered and she said it was the worst day of her life.

She then along to a talent ID programme called ‘Girls for Gold’ where she was measured from top to toe, data with regards to her strength, agility, speed, etc. were gathered. A few weeks passed before she received a letter saying she had been successful and selected for the skeleton programme. She had no idea what it was, but she went to Innsbruck, via a camping store to buy foam matting, which she would need to strap to her body for protection. She was taken to the top of the run, with one way in and one way out. Her coach removed his foot from the front of the skeleton she was lying on and she was off. Reaching the bottom, disorientated, she was pleased it was over and had no inclination to do it again. However, she was taken back to the top and one by one the other athletes had a second run, so she did too.

It was the story of how it all began and how the two time Olympic gold medal winner found her sport. An incredible story of resilience and of someone else finding her strength within her. She spoke with passion, humour, humility and when she held up her medal from the last Winter Olympics there was an audible gasp from the Sports Hall.

Both James and Lizzy will be difficult to beat next year and the children will be talking about them for a good while yet!

Thank you both.