Olympic rower Anna Watkins awarded MBE in New Year Honours
ROWING ace Anna Watkins topped off her year of Olympic achievement by being awarded an MBE.
And even though friends had predicted she stood a good chance of bagging a place in the New Year's Honours list, she told last night of her surprise at being among the recipients.
Anna, from Longsdon, near Leek, won a gold medal in the women's double sculls at the London games.
But she felt Team GB had met so much success in the summer, there would hardly be enough medals to go round.
The 29-year-old said: "People told me that if you win an Olympic gold medal, it is normally followed by an MBE being awarded.
"But we got so many golds I honestly thought that would not be the case this time.
"That's why I was still surprised when I heard I would be getting the award and find it really lovely I have been honoured in this way.
"It's a terrific start to a year after the one I have just had."
Anna achieved her Olympic dreams in August alongside rowing partner Katherine Grainger.
Later that month she was mobbed by shoppers in Leek as a post box was painted gold in recognition of her success.
The Royal Mail also issued a special stamp to commemorate her triumph.
Then last month, Anna led a special assembly for youngsters at her other old school – St Edward's Junior High School in Leek – where she revealed how maths and not PE had been her favourite subject.
As news of the MBE sank in, she continued to enjoy a restful New Year break away from the rigours of full-time training.
She said: "Its been a wonderful but an absolute whirlwind of a year. It's now time to step back a bit and take stock – after all I've been so busy since the Olympics finished. I also need to start thinking whether to try for the next games in Rio in 2016.
"But I don't think I'll be ready to make a decision on that until the summer.
"For the moment I'm really looking forward to meeting the Queen. As for who I decide to take along, it's up to members of my family to show who can be the nicest to me!"
Anna first became interested in rowing during her university days at Cambridge and is now studying for a PhD in mathematics at Reading University.
On the prospects of competing in 2016, much depends on whether partner Katharine will go for gold at the age of 40.
But Anna also has form as a single sculler – an event Great Britain has never won a medal in.
As she mulls over her options she is now preparing for a well-deserved two-month holiday touring South America for two months with her husband, Oliver.
Sybil Ralphs, Conservative leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, said Anna thoroughly deserved the honour.
Ms Ralphs, who was also made an MBE in 2006, said: "I'm absolutely delighted for Anna and I'm not at all surprised she has been recognised. It is very well deserved.
"She's brought nothing but prestige and honour to the Staffordshire Moorlands. She is a very worthy recipient.
"Not only does the MBE recognise her sporting achievement but it also recognises her services to the community."
Ms Ralphs, who was honoured for her tireless campaigning and charity work, added: "The ceremony itself is absolutely wonderful. I would tell Anna to enjoy every moment of it.
"The whole day is like a lovely dream and it's not until a few days later that reality sets in.
"You see it happening to others and then suddenly you are standing in front of the Queen and you can't quite believe it.
"The officials at Buckingham Palace make sure you all have incredibly special day. The Queen is as attentive with the last person she honours as she is with the first."
Among the other recipients in the region is Jon Honeysett, a member of Kidsgrove Environmental Watch Response Group, who has been made an MBE for his services to rail in Kidsgrove. The 70-year-old RAF veteran, from Talke Pits, is also involved with North Staffordshire Pensioners' Convention and id a member The Spitfire Society.
In addition, John Burton has been made an MBE for services to church bell-ringing in North Staffordshire and Jean Glynn, a children's service manager from Alsager, has been given the same honour for her services to healthcare.
Finally Roger Mills, from Nantwich, has been awarded the MBE for services to voluntary and charitable giving in South Cheshire, and Margaret Ollerenshaw, formerly chairman of Cheshire Police Authority, has been made an MBE in recognition of her policing work.