TWO siblings whose journey began at the Grange School more than two decades ago have ushered in a new era with the launch of a state of the art sports centre.

Tom and Emily Ford, who have their sights set on places in Team GB rowing boats at next summer’s Olympics, were welcomed back to the school in Hartford to officially open the £6m hub.

Northwich Guardian:

Having joined the school as toddlers, Tom, 26, and Emily, 24, both rowed in Olympic boats at the recent world championships – having first picked up an oar during their school studies.

IN PICTURES >>> Landmark £6m sports centre opens at The Grange

Sport was a big part of their education, with Tom telling those gathered at the opening that rowing, football, cricket and more was a welcome distraction from lessons.

Emily told the Guardian: “I did some netball and swimming, but I started rowing at around 13. It really took off so I went down that route.

Northwich Guardian:

“We have got two older brothers and when they started at the school they were told ‘you’re big’ and that they would make good rowers.

“We were drawn into it from there and have never looked back.”

And while their dazzling Team GB success takes the Holmes Chapel-born siblings to world class facilities across the globe, students at the Grange will only have to walk a short distance.

Northwich Guardian:

Tom said: “It’s an amazing space. We are lucky enough to be able to train at the EIS at Bisham, which is a huge purpose-built facility for sport. Some of the equipment you see here is on a par with that, which is great.

“I think it’s amazing to see a facility like this here, which can allow people to take their sports further.”

The facilities include a dance studio, fitness suite and multi-functional sports hall.

Northwich Guardian:

Headteacher Debbie Leonard took the project on when she took up her post in 2015.

She said: “We now have facilities fit for purpose.

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“Although we had the ‘sports hall’ before it was really the senior hall. If we had exams it was taken out of action, and what we have now is a sports facility that can be used all year round.”

The new facilities will also be opened up to community fitness classes and team sport clubs.

Northwich Guardian:

Debbie said: “This will enable the school to work with clubs and associations to develop pathways beyond school.

“We have had some very supportive members of the community, from the parish council to residents who have at times had to put up with dust and noise.

"We do appreciate you bearing with us throughout, so thank you very much.”