Rowing stalwarts named BBC Unsung Heroes


Two rowing volunteers have been recognised in the BBC’s regional Unsung Hero Awards, for their sterling work in grassroots sport.

Both Simon Gifford-Mead and Graham Mark attended the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award on Sunday, where swimming coach Jill Stidever won the overall Award.

Simon, from Dart Totnes ARC, has won the Unsung Hero Award for the South West of England, after 25 years of service at the Devonshire club.

Despite recently being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the 68-year-old has thrown himself into junior coaching – supporting his junior crews across the country and being described as “a 24/7 coach” by club-mates.

“There are two options, one is to sit in the corner and just disappear, the other is to carry on,” said Simon.

“I’m thrilled for the sport. I’m thrilled for all the people who help juniors here and throughout British rowing. It’s a great sport, and we want to encourage more people to enjoy it and take part.”

For a closer look at Simon’s story, see the BBC’s story and video at

At the opposite end of the country, Talkin Tarn RC’s Graham Mark has been named the BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero for the North East.

Head Coach Graham has dedicated the best part of four decades to rowing in Cumbria, coaching many of the club’s youngsters to success at local and national level.

“The dedication and enthusiasm that Graham has put into this club over all those years is the main reason why Talkin Tarn ARC is where it is today,” said one of Graham’s club mates.

“It sounds a bit corny, but it’s not all about me,” added Graham. “If we didn’t have the kids to coach, I couldn’t put the time in. Not everybody’s going to be the next Steve Redgrave or Kat Copeland, but as long as they can be the best they can be, and bring out the best in themselves, you can’t ask for much more.”

To find out what Graham means to his club, visit