Proud teacher pays tribute to Olympic champ

17th August 2012 at 01:00
And gold medallist returns high praise for mentor who led the way to success

The Bearsden Academy art teacher who ignited Katherine Grainger's interest in sports has spoken of his pride and excitement at seeing her win Olympic gold at London 2012.

Ken Davis, who still teaches art at the school and still runs the lunchtime karate club that Katherine joined as an S2 pupil, said he was "thrilled and proud" to see her win gold in the double sculls event after silver medals at three previous games.

"It is fantastic. She was a wonderful kid and she seems a wonderful adult as well - very self-effacing and modest, but always enthusiastic and just a lovely girl," he told TESS.

Mr Davis, 59, was nominated by 36-year-old Katherine Grainger to carry the Olympic torch and hand it to her during the Glasgow leg of the flame's journey. The day and her nomination had been a "great moment of pride", he said.

At the time, she paid tribute to her former teacher, saying: "My journey towards becoming a three-time Olympic silver medallist didn't start with a boat or paddles. Strangely it started at Bearsden Academy where I was taught karate by Ken.

"He was such an inspirational teacher and the things I learnt in karate with him helped me develop hugely as a person - from him having a huge amount of faith in me at a stage when I didn't yet have that in myself, to teaching me about dedication, focus and achieving my goal while still having fun."

Mr Davis told TESS that being remembered "with a degree of fondness and respect" had been more touching and made him feel more proud than carrying the torch. "The fact that as a teacher you have had that impact on someone's life is really the highest accolade a teacher can have."

Mr Davis said he remembered Katherine as "a very gentle, quiet girl, but quietly confident".

She had quickly shown great promise when she joined his lunchtime karate club in S2, and later his weight-training class, after hearing about it in art lessons.

"She seemed to take to it like a duck to water. She was dedicated right from day one. She was well-coordinated, very tall and Bambi-like at that time, quite leggy. She had an ethos of working hard and self- discipline."

He had worried she might "drift away from sport" after struggling to find a karate club she liked at university. But during "freshers' fair" she was spotted by sports coaches who recommended she try rowing.

He hopes Katherine Grainger's success will inspire other young Scots, especially girls, to get involved in sport. "She is such a great ambassador for Scottish sport," he said. julia.belgutay@tess.co.uk.

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