ROWING: Paralympic gold medal hero inspires future stars
Peterborough's rowing hero James Fox made a welcome return to his former club last week after coming off the back of a successful summer in Rio.
The Paralympic gold medallist arrived back at Peterborough Rowing Club on Thorpe Meadows to lead a training session with the junior squad, before providing an inspirational talk to the next generation of potential rowing successes.
“It feels really incredible,” Fox said. “I was here 13 years ago and these guys are doing the same thing that I started off doing.
“They have just come out of a five-day learn-to-row course with Steve Brown, who taught me to row as well, so it’s incredible to see these guys. This brings a bit of continuity and hopefully they’ll go onto bigger and better things.
“It’s so nice to be back. The people of Peterborough are great, especially the rowing club. There are great people who I’ve known for years and there are new faces as well and they’re just as kind and welcoming.”
Fox won the LTA Mixed Coxed Fours event last month in Rio, earning him his first gold medal at his first Games.
However, it has not been an easy journey in his career so far.
Since starting to row at the age of 11, he suffered a broken back in a car accident, but this has not prevented him from reaching the top, even when the going got tough.
He added: “I used to be in the Great Britain abled-bodied squad, but I had a car crash and broke my back, so I’ve had hurdles. I didn’t know I was disabled for 20 years of my life, so it’s a weird one.
“I actually quit rowing, so the Paralympics has brought me back into the sport. A lot of people who are in the Paralympics are either born with a major disability or have had an accident, but I’ve sort of managed to skip that.
“I did shot putt, javelin and discus for a year, so that wasn’t my finest hour, but to come back into rowing and win a Paralympic gold, I’m just so chuffed.”
Since winning his medal, the former Jack Hunt School pupil now hopes to continue his career and prolong his unbeaten para-rowing record, even though the worst may be yet to come.
“I would like to do another four years, but the past four years has taken its toll on my body,” Fox revealed.
“I’ve had injections in my back and my hip and they’re sort of crumbling, so another four years would be great, but I don’t want to get three-and-a-half years in and have to pull out.
“It’s happened to people before and it will happen again and I don’t want to be that person, so I’ll do four years or none at all.”
Despite the possibility of not being able to compete in the future, Fox did have some positive words of wisdom for his audience.
He said: “Number one - you have to enjoy it. You won’t excel if you don’t enjoy it, but you also have to train hard. If you train hard, you’ll be well on your way to success.”