Showdown at Spalding school’s sports day for medical charity

National under-15 200 metres champion William Hughes and former British sprinter Richard Knowles will face off in a race for charity at Spalding Grammar School on July 12.
National under-15 200 metres champion William Hughes and former British sprinter Richard Knowles will face off in a race for charity at Spalding Grammar School on July 12.
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Spalding Grammar School is to stage the race of the year when England’s fastest 15-year-old takes on a ex-Great Britain international athlete this summer.

But apart from bragging rights, the only prize at stake for languages teacher Richard Knowles (40) and talented young sprinter William Hughes (15) is the hope of lots of money being raised for a humanitarian charity nicknamed “the floating hospital”.

Mr Knowles and William, both members of Nene Valley Harriers Atheltics Club based in Peterborough, have agreed to race over 200 metres during the school’s sports day on July 12.

The gold medal in mind for both is to help Mr Knowles raise at least £1,500 for Mercy Ships, a team of doctors, nurses, surgeons and other medical professionals who provide healthcare to some of the world’s poorest people from a ship called Africa Mercy.

Mr Knowles said: “My sister Jacqui worked for six months with Mercy Ships in Guinea, West Africa, and since she’s been back, Jacqui’s been working out when she can go back again.

“I’m incredibly proud of my sister after she worked on the Africa Mercy as a dental nurse and that’s one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about helping Mercy Ships.

I’m incredibly proud of my sister after she worked on the Africa Mercy as a dental nurse and that’s one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about helping Mercy Ships

Richard Knowles, languages teacher at Spalding Grammar School

“So I originally proposed to William for us to race over 300 metres as I used to be a 400-metre runner for Great Britain.

“But William didn’t really want to do that so we agreed that I’d come out of retirement for a challenge over 200 metres instead.”

Before retiring in 2002, Mr Knowles was a member of Birchfield Harriers Athletics Club in Birmingham whose famous members include former Olympic champion Denise Lewis, ex-Commonwealth Games champion Louise Hazel and Holbeach-born athletes Geoff Capes and Stuart Storey.

Mr Knowles said: “I’m delighted that William’s parents are very interested in the charity, but I’m sure that he just likes the idea of beating his teacher.”

William said: “Mr Knowles came up to me and said he was curious about what I was capable of when running the 200 metres.

“At the time, I didn’t realise that he’d for Great Britain so when he came to me, I liked the sound of the challenge and I’m just focused on trying to beat him.”

You can donate before the race at https://www.justgiving.com/RJKMercyShips

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