Graham Edmunds, Gold Medallist and member of the Paralympic Swimming Team, opened the new £5 million French Sports Centre, named after Chris French and his family, on Tuesday 12th May.
Chris French, a member of the Governing body, has been Chairman of the Property Committee for the last fifteen years. It was his father, who was also a Governor of the School, who had been responsible for the construction of the very first outdoor swimming pool here in 1958.
Later in 1989 the pool was covered and squash courts and sports hall were added. Over the years, several phases of redevelopment of the site were put in place. Refurbishing of the sports hall, real tennis court, squash courts and now the addition of a brand new five lane swimming pool, changing rooms, gym, social function room with balcony overlooking the grass tennis courts and large reception area with café facilities.
Graham knows the school well as he grew up in Woodcote and visited the sports centre often. His mother, Pauline Walker, was Housemother of St John from January 2002-July 2013 and is herself active in supporting various swimming clubs and is currently working on a synchronized swimming club for Downs Syndrome with a view to go to the World Downs Syndrome Championships in Italy in 2016.
Local Henley MP John Howell attended the opening reception along with Governors, parents, staff and boys. Adrian Wyles, who will take up the post as Head Master in September 2015, was also present with his wife Dee. Sports Captains and Senior School Officers accompanied guests on a tour of the Centre before lunch, while the very talented School jazz band played some wonderful music, under the directorship of Gary Howarth.
The sports centre is a wonderful facility for the boys to enjoy and as Graham said: “a pool is the most important facility a school can have because it teaches a life skill – it is the only sport that can save your life in certain situations”.
The development is part of £25m programme which has taken place over the last ten years.