Tower Hamlets youngster Lauren Paku celebrates her sailing gold medal with London Youth Games mascot Foxy and GB Olympian Charles Cousins
Tower Hamlets enjoyed multiple medal success at the Thames Water London Youth Games Regatta on Saturday, with podium finishes in sailing and kayaking.
Over 900 young people from 30 London boroughs took part, with youngsters competing in rowing, sprint kayaking, slalom kayaking and sailing.
There were four classes taking part on day one of the sailing competition at Royal Victoria Docks, including the Pico, Oppie boys and girls, and the Access 2.3.
And after a day of racing under sunny skies and with a good breeze to help the sailors speed round the course at Royal Victoria Docks, Lauren Paku came out on top in the girl’s Oppie class to take home gold.
Lauren, 10, a pupil at River House Montessori School, said: “It was a really good experience to get out here and have fun.
“I didn’t think I was going to win, but my starts were alright. I’ve been sailing two and a half years. I love the thrill of it all. The conditions were quite windy, but it was alright.
“I’ve learnt a lot about how to sail properly when the wind keeps shifting and going crazy, so I’ve definitely learnt something technical that will help me.”
Paku’s elder sister Tegan, 12, teamed up with Bow-based Bo Hughes to secure silver in the Pico class, while 11-year-old Gabriel Coker, of Challoner Catholic Collegiate, won bronze in the boy’s Oppie class.
The final borough standings in sailing will be decided after the second day of competition on June 22.
Tower Hamlets had plenty more to cheer in the kayaking, with St Mary and St Michael School pupil Gabriella Leoni, 15, and William Walker winning silver in the senior female and senior male slalom events.
Shadwell-based Walker, 16, said: “It feels really good. It’s nice to have an aim, something to work towards.
“I’ve been paddling since I was a kid. I’ve been training for maybe a month or so and I’ve had exams. I’d like to do more kayaking than I do now, but we’ll see.”
Mile End-based Ross Dixon, 11, and Bethnal Green’s Kaydeen Wilson, 14, ensured Tower Hamlets completed a sweep of medals across the slalom events, winning individual bronze in the junior male and junior female races.
Thanks to the efforts of their four individual medallists, the borough finished third overall in the kayak slalom standings and fifth in the kayak sprint standings.
Team Manager William Tytler said: “In preparation for the Games we took a part in time trials and competitions for the last few weeks.
“I’m so proud of the team. The London Youth Games means a lot – it’s an inspiration for the team and allows them to progress.”
One interested spectator was Olympic rower Charles Cousins who was among the Team GB crew who finished fifth in the quadruple sculls at London 2012. He said: “The biggest thing that’s impressive is how many kids are getting involved.
“Just seeing them out on the water they all look like they’ve got smiles on their faces. My advice is to stick with it.
“It might not be rowing and it might not be canoeing but find a sport that you enjoy and that you’re passionate about and stick with it and see where it takes you.
“For me personally, it’s helped me sort my life out. It’s got me into a decent university and got me a scholarship, so a lot of stuff comes with sport.”