Olympic star’s college role

WHEN a two-time Olympian with 153 international caps for her country speaks, you generally tend to listen.

Therefore, the pupils at Framlingham College are in a privileged position following the arrival of Susan Webber, the former captain of the South African women’s hockey team.

The 33-year-old is a month in to her role as the college’s new deputy head, working under Paul Taylor a former first-class cricketer with Surrey.

Bloemfontein-born Webber first came to the UK in 2003 to play for Canterbury Hockey Club, retiring from the international game in 2004, with the Sydney and Athens Olympics under her belt.

Retiring from international competition in her mid-twenties to concentrate on her teaching could have been seen a strange move for a player reaching the peak of her powers but Webber has never regretted that decision.

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She feels lucky to be able to pass on her knowledge and experiences to potential stars of the future, who benefit from top of the range sporting facilities at the campus, including two fantastic artificial playing surfaces - one of which has only just been completed.

“I started really young (in hockey) and my first international match was at the age of 17 and then I was fortunate to have 11 years of international hockey, playing 153 times for my country, so I managed to do everything in the sport really,” Webber recalled.

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“I played in two Olympic Games, two World Cups, two Commonwealth Games and the African games so I had a wide variety of competition in that 11 years.

“The Olympics are the most amazing experience ever and the memories I took from both Games are quite special and ones that I can keep for life and use in every day life.

“The fact that pupils are being coached by an Olympian is a huge advantage but as that Olympian there is also a huge responsibility to.

“I have so much experience that I can share such as the hard work of training 10 hours a week - training in the morning and evening and working in between - and those stories can be a real motivation for children and are a really important element of the educational side.”

Webber led South Africa to two ninth-placed finishes in Sydney and Athens and lifted the All-African Trophy, in Nigeria, in 2003 after her country defeated the hosts 10-0 in the final.

“It was a massive honour to captain my country and at the Olympics it was even more special as I was running out with the armband on knowing that I was a role-model and that people were looking up to me,” continued Webber.

“When you are singing your country’s national anthem, you realise that you have really achieved something special, something you have been striving for, it is a real buzz.

“Sydney was amazing and is considered one of the best Olympics to have ever been staged while it was special to be in Athens with all the history that came with the Greek Games.”

Having reached the top in her field, Webber is now turning her attentions to developing the next batch of British talent, not just in hockey and sport in general but in other educational areas and in everyday life.

“From a hockey perspective, looking at the girls’ first team, they have potential and hopefully they will do well,” said Webber of the youngsters who have won their first two games of the seasson against colleges from Cambridge.

“We are fortunate to have two fantastic artificial pitches as well as a number of other facilities that will allow our pupils to be the best they can be.

“But the focus is not just on sport and the most important thing is that Framlingham College is a well-balanced school and the provision for drama, music and academic studies, as well as sport, is excellent.

“Sport is my life but what the school had to offer in all other aspects was the biggest attraction for me.”

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