Celebrating QE’s champions at Senior Awards

Celebrating QE’s champions at Senior Awards

Olympian Derek Redmond offered both congratulations and some sage advice born of his own hard-won experience to prize-winners at 2024’s Senior Awards ceremony.

Mr Redmond enjoyed a successful international career as a sprinter before it was cut short by injury. He drew on the lessons he learned from this huge disappointment to explain to the boys how they can overcome the setbacks that will inevitably come their way and then go on to further success in the future.

He was Guest of Honour at the ceremony – a highlight of QE’s calendar – speaking to the assembled boys, their families, staff and VIPs including the Deputy Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Tony Vourou, in the School Hall.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This year’s Senior Awards was very successful, with a great atmosphere: it was the first time we have had a professional sportsman as our guest speaker, and Derek’s speech was pitched perfectly for the occasion. It was very well received, with large numbers eager to speak with him at the post-reception ceremony.”

In his own speech, Mr Enright drew parallels between the prize-winners’ achievements and those of élite sportsmen. He pointed both to the personal attributes that the boys had demonstrated to achieve such success, but also to the way in which QE itself contributed: “We achieve at a very high standard here. We are unashamedly personally ambitious for our performance and our future development. But we do so together, in unison and cooperation. We all realise, I hope, that our individual performances are enhanced by working together in partnership.”

Senior Awards saw well over 100 prizes awarded to boys from Years 10, 11 and 12. They ranged from awards for individual subjects to those for ‘contribution & responsibility’ and for excelling in extra-curricular activities including chess, music and the Combined Cadet Force.

The evening was punctuated by musical interludes performed by some of the music prize-winners. The music played included pieces by Handel, Schubert and contemporary British composer, Ian Clarke.

In Mr Redmond’s speech, he congratulated the award-winners on all the work that they had put in unseen to earn the “15 seconds of fame” they enjoyed as they came up to receive their prizes.

But he signposted that he also wished to give them a reality check – that they have now set a standard for themselves that everyone will be expecting them to reach all the time.

Using his own personal story, he explained that there will be setbacks, but that his definition of success is “getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down”. To do so you need determination and self-belief.

He recounted how, having ‘popped’ his hamstring in the Barcelona Olympics semi-final in 1992, he spent the next 18 months going through recurrent treatments and operations, only for it to happen again as soon as he was back in training each time. This led his surgeon (who by this point had very little left to work with) to declare that the hamstring was ‘shot’, that his athletics career was over, and that he would never compete for his country again.

It was this last part that riled him and motivated him, as he took it as an indictment that he would never be good enough.

However, he went on to play for England (briefly) in basketball and played professional rugby, just missing out on selection for the national Rugby Sevens team. He has subsequently successfully raced endurance motorbikes, won a national kickboxing title, and is still boxing (ahead of turning 60 next year).

He has found new challenges to motivate him in which he can achieve. He does not claim to be the most naturally talented in these other sports, but has put in the work. This applies to whatever field the boys want to pursue, he told them.