AN OLYMPIC athlete and world champion has visited a North-East school to inspire pupils and help launch a summer fitness programme.

Former Olympic bobsledder Nicola Minichiello, who became the first female British bobsleigh driver to win a world championship in 2009, paid a visit to Oxbridge Lane Primary School, in Stockton, to launch a new summer fitness challenge.

The Olympian has visited many schools in her role as an athlete mentor for the Youth Sports Trust, but her trip to Oxbridge Lane Primary marked her first such visit in more than a year due to Covid.

Nicola said: “Sport transcends more than just physical fitness – it teaches kids all about key life skills like working hard and being determined. It’s lifelong learning to help them succeed in life.

“After a whole year of not being able to do these visits, it’s really nice to be here and to talk with the kids today.

“I hope they come away from this knowing that they can achieve anything if they work hard, and that a determined mindset will help them to overcome any limitation.”

Nicola shared her experiences competing in international athletics at the highest level, and led exercise activities with the students.

She also introduced pupils to the school’s new summer fitness programme, which challenges them to steadily build up their stamina over the next few weeks and make significant improvements to their health.

Teacher Alastair Irwin, who organised the visit, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to have a World Champion like Nicola visiting the school today.

“It’s so inspiring for the children to meet her, and it’s a great opportunity to launch our personal challenge for this summer, which is all about fitness.

“Promoting physical fitness has always been very important at Oxbridge Lane Primary, but since lockdown some children have struggled to stay active, and not only does that have a physical effect, but it has a mental and emotional impact as well.

“This is a fantastic way of helping the children to get active and get their brains going – we’re big believers in ‘healthy body, healthy mind’.”

The pupils will learn a series of 16 exercises for the fitness challenge, including star jumps, squat thrusts, jogging on the spot. They will then test themselves over the course of the term and strive to improve their times, reps, and ultimately their stamina and fitness.

Children will also be given 15 minutes every day outside of lessons, and in addition to regular physical education, to practice these exercises.

Head teacher Amy Blackburn said: “It’s wonderful to have an incredible ambassador for UK sport like Nicola pay us a visit and share first-hand experience with the children about what can be achieved with hard work and dedication.

“We’re immensely grateful to Nicola, to the Youth Sport Trust, and to Stockton School Partnership for helping to make this visit happen.”