Tokyo 2020: Felsted School celebrates 113 years of producing 21 Olympians all the way back to London 1908
When Matt Coward-Holley dons his Team GB kit in Tokyo later this year, he will be continuing a proud tradition which began 113 years ago.
The 26-year old shooter is set to become the 21st person educated at Felsted School to represent their country at the Olympic Games.
The school began building its legacy of producing Olympians at the 1908 Games in London when Johnny Douglas, Norman Hallows and Ivo Fairbairn-Crawford made the short journey to the English capital.
There were even instant medals as boxer Douglas struck gold in the middleweight division while athlete Hallows raced to bronze in the 1,500m.
And it is not just old pupils who have graced the planet's biggest sporting stage. John Cockett, who was a house master and head of PE, claimed a hockey bronze medal in Helsinki in 1952 as well as competing four years later in Melbourne. Alan Lerwill, who was also a head of PE, went to Mexico City and Munich in 1968 and 1972 respectively to take part in the long jump.
"Sport is an important part of life at Felsted and there is no greater competition than the Olympics," said headmaster Chris Townsend.
"We have been fortunate to have a good number of past students – and staff – compete at the Olympics over the years, and these names from our history continue to inspire and motivate our current pupils.
"There is no doubt that success in any field can boost self-esteem and confidence, and lead to improvements across the board.
"Success boosts belief, but sport is also an excellent educator through defeat and failure, and we can learn from our mistakes to do better next time."
After Douglas and Hallows had medals put around their necks in 1908, the next Old Felstedian to step onto the podium was Herbert Perry. The shooter won gold in the team running deer, double shots – a target-shooting event last part of an Olympic programme in 1948 – at the Paris Games in 1924.
Fast-forward to 1960 and athlete David Jones helped Great Britain achieve a bronze medal on the track in the 4x100m relay in Rome.
And the last person to represent Felsted on an Olympic podium was hockey player Robert Cattrall, who took a bronze medal home from the 1984 competition in Los Angeles.
"A proper education develops the individual in all ways – physically, intellectually, socially and as an individual character," said Townsend.
"Sport should be for all and we are proud to offer a wide range of options, from athletics to yoga, with highly competitive team sports and options for those who just want to have fun. We have seen, particularly during the lockdowns, how crucial it is to stay active for mental as much as physical health, and there are plenty of studies to show that staying active improves academic performance."
Coward-Holley – whose Olympic experience is due to start on July 23 when the delayed 2020 Games gets under way in Japan – started out on his journey to the top while studying at Felsted. He took up trap shooting at the age of 17 having also been a good rugby player before an injury halted his progress.
And the school did all it could to ensure Coward-Holley had the best possible environment to achieve his sporting dreams while also continuing to do well academically.
"We are very fortunate to educate some very successful and motivated individuals in many fields, and we will always try to make adjustments to enable them to practise, rehearse, train or compete, whether in music, drama, sport or any other field," said Townsend.
"I don't like the word 'pushing' because I feel it is critical that the drive must come from the individual if they want to get to the highest level, but we certainly enable and support the aspirations of our students in all fields.
"Matt would be a good example of this. We enabled him to train and compete, but his drive and motivation has been exceptional and this is what has got him to the brink of the Olympics."
Other people on the list of Felsted's honorary Olympians shows it has also made its mark on the event away from the action. Neil Allen reported on 11 summer and two winter Games as a journalist for The Times, The New York Times and the Evening Standard while Felsted alumna and singer Esme Smith showed off her musical talent when she was involved in the unforgettable London 2012 opening ceremony.
The last Old Felstedian to enter the sporting arena at the Olympics was Chris Hunnable, who took part in the three-day eventing in Atlanta in 1996.
Coward-Holley will become No 21 in Felsted's Olympics hall of fame this summer and the school is certain to produce more sporting superstars over the coming years to extend its proud heritage.
"In terms of winning national honours, our best prospects at the moment are probably those playing hockey and rugby sevens, but we will see," said Townsend.
"I certainly don't want to name names at this point and add to the pressure that is already there!"