A celebratory event for former University of Portsmouth student Lauren Steadman MBE - who won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games - took place at the Queens Hotel on Saturday.
Organised by the university’s alumni and advancement team, the event celebrated Lauren’s sporting success and allowed her to thank the people around her who supported her going for gold.
It was also to welcome many of the university's current supporters and to thank those donors and volunteers whose generosity has enabled students to reach their potential; Lauren received a scholarship and much support from the university.
She said: “I believe from the bottom of my heart I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the gold medal without everybody in this room who’s supported me.
“During my time at the university, there wasn’t anything I asked for that the university didn’t deliver on to help me get to where I needed to be. Portsmouth has so much to offer and I’ve been able to become the best athlete I could possibly be with the backing of the university.
“When I first visited Portsmouth I felt an instant connection to the city, I loved the fact it’s a city campus and by the sea. The headwind on the seafront really toughens you up. If you can run a fast time along the seafront in the headwind in Portsmouth, you can run anywhere in the world!
“I really believe in years to come people will remember Portsmouth for being a great academic and sporting university.”
Portsmouth has so much to offer and I’ve been able to become the best athlete I could possibly be with the backing of the university.
Lauren won Paralympic gold and silver medals at Tokyo 2020 and Rio 2016 respectively. She has also been world champion and European champion multiple times since her triathlon debut in 2011.
Paul Tilley, Head of Sport and Recreation at the University, said: “I’m delighted Lauren chose to study in Portsmouth and we’ve been able to support her as a sports scholar throughout her undergraduate and postgraduate studies, and beyond.
“Alongside her sport and TV work, Lauren also does a huge amount for charities and schools. She helped raise £20,000 for Mind through the company she set up with a university friend and has also raised money for her local hospice as well as numerous other charitable activities.
“I’m so pleased we can be here today to recognise the hard work and determination Lauren has put in over the years to not only reach the pinnacle of her sport, but also to recognise her activities within our community inspiring people from all walks of life to overcome challenges and achieve their potential.
“Her achievements are fantastic and we’re so proud and privileged that Lauren is part of our university story.”
Lauren has starred in reality TV shows including Strictly Come Dancing, where she became the first-ever female disabled contestant, and Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, where she was crowned joint winner.
Paralympians David Henson, Lauren Steadman and Graham Edmunds
University of Portsmouth Vice-Chancellor Professor Graham Galbraith said: “Lauren is a true inspiration who has overcome so many challenges. We pride ourselves on supporting talent and aiming to be the best we can be, which is exactly our long-term goal – to be the top modern university. It’s wonderful to celebrate Lauren’s sporting endeavours, her entrepreneurial success, her humble personality and approachability. She is an inspiration to me, the university community, to women and to those with a disability.”
Paralympians Graham Edmunds and David Henson MBE also shared the stage with Lauren and spoke at the event. Graham is a British swimmer who has won two gold medals in World Record times. David is a former army captain and double amputee who has also been involved in the Invictus Games.