by Terry Bearpark
Two distinguished Olympians visited Withernsea on Sunday to launch new activity trails in the town designed to encourage families to be more active.
Mohamed Karim Sbihi is a British rower and a three-time Olympian and Olympic medal winner. He won a gold medal in the coxless four at 2016 Rio Olympics, and at the 2012 London Olympics he was in the British crew that won the bronze medal in the men’s eight.
He returned to the eight for the 2020 Tokyo games, again winning bronze.
He was selected as one of Team GB’s two flag bearers for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, in 2021, which he described as a “huge honour”.
The highest finishing British modern pentathlete at Rio 2016, Kate French went even better in Tokyo, winning gold in the women’s event.
She has enjoyed medal success ever since taking up the sport, taking team gold along with Samantha Murray and Freyja Prentice at the European Championships in 2015.
French also won a mixed relay silver medal in the 2014 World Championships but it was in Brazil where she came of age, finishing fifth in the women’s event on her Olympic debut.
She followed that up with silver medals at both the 2018 and 2019 European Championships before winning individual bronze at the 2019 World Championships in Budapest.
And 2021 saw her dominate the competition, winning three international medals – including gold at the World Cup Final – as well as setting a new women’s world record in the fencing.
Before she won the biggest event of all, with gold at Tokyo 2020 she was made an MBE in the 2022 New Year Honours. The project, called Green 2 Gold, is being held in collaboration with Team GB and the focus is on looking at greenspace exercise as a route to tackling health inequalities in East Yorkshire.
The trails were also launched on Saturday at Victoria Dock Park, and Sunday saw many people joining Mohamed and Kate to take part in warm-up activities before tackling one of the four trails, ranging in times from 25 to 45 minutes each. There are 21 signs from the north to the south ends of the town, each one describing an activity that can be done relating to the Olympics.
Esther Carter, a PhD student at the University of Hull, who created the trails, said: “We’re keen to create an activity that is accessible to many people and could encourage ‘stealthy’ exercise.
“By having free walking trails in place, that people can take part in at any time, issues surrounding the cost of activities and a lack of time are reduced. These are commonly cited as barriers to taking part in physical activity.
“Two things that are great for improving general health are being regularly physically active and spending time outdoors in nature.
“We’re hoping this project will allow people to come together as a family to exercise, at a convenient time, and work with technology to motivate engagement.”
After researching what was already available in terms of green space exercise as a means of engaging communities in physical activity, four interactive walking trails have been developed.
These trails are walking routes that go around local outdoor nature spaces and walkers are encouraged to look out for Team GB branded signposts that include activities and fun facts.
Also assisting the launch in Withernsea were town mayor Cllr Lyn Healing and councillors Ian and Jacqui Blackburn.
Participants also received a distinctive T-shirt and a badge after completing one of the walks and filling in a simple questionnaire.
For more information, visit activelearning.hull.ac.uk.