The United Reformed Church has struck gold with a third Olympic competitor from a local church having success at the Games. Anna Watkins, aged 29, took first place with her partner Kath Grainger, in the women’s double sculls, after earlier breaking the Olympic record by nearly five seconds in a qualifying heat at Eton Dorney.
Anna was brought up within Trinity Church, Leek, Staffordshire, a United Reformed and Methodist congregation. Her parents, Richard and Caroline, and her grandmother remain closely associated with the congregation.
The church are hoping to invite Anna to a join them to celebrate, but not until their minister, the Revd Richard Pope returns; he is currently on sabbatical and has missed the excitement.
Church treasurer, John Fisher, has known Anna for many years. He said: ‘She is strong and determined - she has shown that through her rowing. They are a lovely, caring family. Anna started rowing at university; as a result of her enthusiasm, her parents have also become involved.’
Mr Fisher is deputy mayor of Leek and says the town will also want to acknowledge her great achievement.
After victory in the qualifying heat, Anna’a mother, Caroline, told The Leek Post and Times that Anna had been overwhelmed by the support she had received from people in Leek and the surrounding area. She said: ‘It has meant so much to her to know her home town is right behind her.’
Anna Watkins’ achievement follows that of Jenni Pinches, a member of the women’s gymnastic team, who attends Trinity Church, Cheadle, Cheshire and cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, from Bridge United Reformed Church in the Yorkshire market town of Otley, who won the first medal of the Games for Team GB with a silver in the women’s road race.
Picture of Anna Watkins re-produced by kind permission of The Leek Post and Times.