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Warm reception for Olympic stars on aircraft carrier

3 November 2021
They carried the weight of the nation in Tokyo this summer, and around 30 of Team GB’s athletes were treated to time away from training yesterday to visit HMNB Portsmouth for a reception on aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales.

All the Olympians and Paralympians invited share a link to the ship through an association with her home port of Portsmouth; with Wales; with Scotland where she was assembled; or with Liverpool and Bristol – the two cities she has an affiliation with. Members of the GB sailing team were also invited.

Guests included Portchester-based bronze-winning BMX biker Declan Brooks, Portsmouth Paralympian triathlete Lauren Steadman, who trained in HMS Temeraire’s pool before winning gold, and para-cycling gold winning couple Neil and Lora Fachie who were born in Aberdeen and Liverpool.

For Lauren, it was a chance to thank the Royal Navy for allowing her to train at HMS Temeraire earlier in the year when all other local pools were closed due to Covid restrictions, and her best training options were either the chilly winter sea or driving to Bath five days a week.

She said: “I think I would, in another lifetime, have loved a job in the military – it’s very similar, the protocols and mindset that you have as an elite athlete.

“As an athlete you need to be as efficient as you can be, so driving two hours to do a swimming session was not efficient, so the fact I could get up in the morning and just drive three minutes and get my session done was great.”

We have teammates who have served, it’s one of the interesting sides to the Paralympics that you get those who have been wounded and some of them have gone onto great things.

Neil Fachie

After lunch with Commanding Officer, Captain Steve Higham, the athletes were taken on a tour of the ship which included meeting some of the Royal Navy’s elite athletes.

Among them were powerlifter Petty Officer Wes McGuinness, ranked 7th in the world in his category, and Brett Wild who will be acting as guide for para-skier Millie Knight through their world cup campaign and at the next Winter Paralympics.

Neil Fachie said: “We have teammates who have served, it’s one of the interesting sides to the Paralympics that you get those who have been wounded and some of them have gone onto great things. And we have friends who have served in the Navy and it was nice to tell them we were coming down here today, they were very jealous.”

Declan Brooks said: “It’s obviously a privilege to be here and with me being just down the road it is a great thing to come in and say hello. The size of the boat is just insane.”

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