Paralympic Success Comes Full Circle Thanks to RAF Marham Airwoman

Thursday 31st August 2012 saw the Great Britain Powerlifting team win its only medal of the Paralympics with Zoe Newson securing Bronze in the female 40kg class. The 2012 Games was the 20 year olds first ever appearance and it all began under the watchful eye of an RAF airwoman.

Sgt Ann Thomas based at RAF Marham, is no stranger to success having won seven World Championships herself and it was Ann’s early success that led her to coach Zoe. A co-founder of the Suffolk Spartans, a disability Powerlifting club established in East Bergholt for children with physical and learning difficulties, Ann was the first ever female coach of Zoe. This all started in 2007 and continued right up to the middle of 2009. During this time Zoe went on to win a number of National events and shortly after won the Junior World championships and competed at the Commonwealth Games in India.

Subsequent postings with the RAF, both home and abroad, saw Ann leave Zoe in the hands of the other coaching staff but fate was to see them reunited at the games with Ann’s selection to the ceremonial teams. Their reunion was complete when Ann carried the Union Jack to be raised for the bronze medal and in doing so the pupil was honoured by her first teacher.

Such is the bond that the two share that as soon as Zoe realised she had won the bronze medal she ran backstage and found Ann and with tears already streaming down her face thanked Ann for all she had accomplished.

Sgt Thomas said: “It was fantastic to see how far she had come in the last few years and there was no shortage of encouragement from the ceremonial team backstage as well as the huge crowd out front. It was an incredible honour to raise the national flag for a GB athlete but even more special to know that I had a part in it. She thanked me for her success but I simply told her that it was all her and she deserved everything she had earned”

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