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Defroand inspires current crop of Coopers pupils at sports presentation evening

PUBLISHED: 14:00 06 December 2018

Emily Defroand with the Coopers Coborn sports captains at their awards night

Emily Defroand with the Coopers Coborn sports captains at their awards night

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Great Britain and England hockey international Emily Defroand fulfilled a lifetime ambition at former school Coopers Coborn at their annual sports presentation evening, writes Lee Power.

The 24-year-old Defroand gave an inspirational talk to current students and revealed how, as a year seven pupil, she had once told mum Gill she wanted to be the special guest up on stage.

Recalling how eldest brother James had been a Games Captain on that particular night and how her other brother Alex had won a service to sport award, Defroand spoke passionately about her time at the Upminster school.

There were highs, such as winning national hockey and tennis titles, getting to travel to one of the events in a limosuine and having time off from lessons to go and buy matching outfits with team-mates at Lakeside!

But Defroand also spoke of the lows, of missing a national hockey final due to a Maths GCSE exam – which she had been forced to originally miss as it clashed with an England training camp.

And the message to those now following in her footsteps at Coopers – recently named the UK’s top state school for the second time in three years – was clear: work hard.

Olympic athletes Tony Jarrett and Dina Asher-Smith, as well as gymnast Beth Tweddle, have spoken to students at the event in previous years, all with their own inspirational tales of individual sacrifice.

But the fact Defroand is one of their own, who has walked the same corridors, been helped by the same members of staff, and gone on to achieve her sporting goals – so far – will hopefully have even greater significance.

With family and her own school friends in the audience, the Commonwealth Games bronze medalist spoke of the lasting relationships orged at Coopers, while embracing the school’s Love As Brethren motto.

And she paid a moving tribute to Lisa and Pippa Wilson for their strength since the tragic deaths of Tom – a former Games Captain – and his dad Graham.

This year’s Games Captains Isabella Purdie, Katie Mitchell, Sophie Smith, Bethan Isherwood, Max Prior, Harley Whittlestone, Tom Keevil and Nathan Meskell put on a great show as hosts, meanwhile, and judging by the success stories, some could return as guest speakers one day too.

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