OLYMPIC legend Sir Steve Redgrave came to the region to inspire children to take up physical activity today (Thursday, May 8), and told of how sport may have saved him from a possible life of crime.

Sir Steve, who won five gold medals in rowing in five Olympics, one of the greatest sporting achievements of all time, spoke to pupils in Northfield School and Sports College in Billingham.

The athlete was joined by Hartlepool boxer, Amanda Coulson, former British boxing champion, to promote the Sporting Promise programme.

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The Sporting Promise initiative is designed to encourage physical activity among all children, not just those interested in traditional sports.

After addressing the school assembly and answering questions, Sir Steve and Amanda Coulson played Ultimate Frisbee and Street Cheer, a cheerleading-type activity for girls, with both Northfield pupils but also younger children from Priors Mill CE Primary School.

Talking about how he became involved in sport, Sir Steve, who explained he attended an ordinary comprehensive school, said: “If not for sport I could be propping up one of our prisons.

"I’m heavily dyslexic and found school hard and was hanging around some guys at school I shouldn’t have been and could have ended up in trouble, although I was already into rugby.”

Sir Steve, from Marlow, Buckinghamshire, explained it was an inspirational English teacher, Francis Smith, who was interested in rowing and asked him to join a team he was forming.

Amanda Coulson also said it was not easy to find a path to her chosen sport, boxing, as a 14-year-old girl. She had read about female boxing but was rejected from taking up the sport in all but one of Hartlepool’s boxing clubs.

They both said that greater opportunity to become involved in a much wider range of sports than they had was needed for the current generation of youngsters.

For more details about Sporting Promise go to sportingpromise.co.uk