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Old Girl Rachel Inspires the Next Generation

Friday, 01 June 2012

Over 1,000 flag-waving pupils, parents, staff and friends of Bolton School were on hand to cheer on the Olympic torch as it passed the School at 6.21am this morning! The joint jazz band ensured everyone was wide awake by the time the procession made its way down Chorley New Road. Nathan Zimmerling completed the leg that passed Bolton School, he passed the flame to Anjali Shah who, in turn, passed it to Old Girl of the School, Rachel Flanders.

Rachel's torch was lit just outside the School's Leverhulme Pavilion and she smiled and waved throughout her run, cheered on by family and friends, including members of the Durham University Boat Club. Rachel is currently studying for a Masters degree in General Engineering at Durham. It was an emotional moment for both Rachel and her family. 

Rachel said: "It was an amazing experience. I was very nervous before I got the torch and I did not really know what to expect. The running part went past in a flash, although I was tiring towards the end of my stretch and my arm was beginning to ache. I was delighted that so many people turned out to watch, including my family and friends. I will take the torch back to Durham with me. I certainly won't be selling it, it will be given pride of place wherever I go. It was an absolute privilege to run in the torch relay and I shed a tear after I finished."

Rachel's proud father said: "It was fantastic to see Rachel running in the torch relay. I was delighted and amazed at how many people were out on the streets.  I was a bit nervous for her but no where near as scared as when she spent 74 days at sea!"

Brother and sister, George and Ruby Hill, who are both pupils at Bolton School, watched the relay with their mum and dad. Ruby, a Year 3 pupil aged 7 at the Junior Girls' School said: "I have had a very good time and I enjoyed listening to the School jazz band whilst we were waiting for the torch to come past.  They really added to the morning."  Her brother George, aged 12 and a pupil in the Boys' Senior School, said: "What a great morning!  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity."

During her time at the School, Rachel, aged just 17 at the time, became the youngest person ever to row across the Atlantic Ocean. She made it into the record books after finishing the 3,000 mile Woodvale Challenge - the world's toughest rowing race - from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean. Rachel was part of an all-female team of four named the Atlantic Angels, that made the crossing in 74 days, 1 hour and 3 minutes.

Rachel's former PE teacher, Mrs Kath Heatherington said: "Rachel was a great swimmer whilst at school but clearly rowing is what she excelled at.  She showed an incredible resolve in rowing the Atlantic. Whilst she had lots of natural rowing talent she had no experience of doing it out at sea. However, she focussed on her training and really prepared herself for the race. She took a year out of school but came back, completed her A levels and is now studying at Durham.  As an Old Girl, she really is inspiring the next generation at Bolton School."

A dozen students from Durham University came down to Bolton to cheer Rachel on. Her friend, Rhiannon Ellis, said: "What a morning! It has been well worth the trip down from Durham. It really was exciting." 

After completing her run, Rachel brought the torch into School and showed it to excited pupils and staff at a celebration breakfast which took place in the Boys' Division Dining Room. She then visited a number of form groups in the Girls' Division and spent time with the Physics Department, of which she had many fond memories. Rachel joined Bolton School at the Junior Girls' School level and made a special trip down to Hesketh House to show the torch to the pupils and to help inspire the next generation of athletes.

Rachel's next challenge is to try and set a new Guinness World Record for rowing the furthest distance in a 24 hour period. She is doing this on 22 June with another rower at Agecroft Rowing Club - they will row in 20 minute bursts each. 

The Olympic torch will be carried for 70 days throughout the UK by 8,000 runners over 8,000 miles.  It will finish its journey in the Olympic Stadium on Friday 27 July and, during the Opening Ceremony, will light the cauldron and the flame will then burn throughout the Games.

You can watch a video of the torch passing the School and Rachel's thoughts on the big event here and a video of Rachel's run here on Bolton School TV.

View a gallery of photos from the day.

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Rachel Flanders with the Olympic Torch

Rachel Flanders smiled and waved all the way down Chorley New Road!

The Olympic torch passes Bolton School to the accompaniement of the School Jazz Band

Rachel then spent the morning in school showing the torch to excited pupils and staff