Success for Abingdon boys

Andrew Hall reflects on a year of outstanding sport at Abingdon School

An impressive number of boys at Abingdon are enjoying an unprecedented level of success in the sporting arena with 16 boys representing their country and a further nine winning titles at a national level.  And these achievements are not limited to a handful of sports but cover a wide range including rugby, hockey, rowing, athletics, fencing, shooting, karate, cycling, orienteering and cricket.  This is due, in part, to the wide range of opportunities on offer to pupils and the encouragement to excel in their particular field, as well as, of course, the boys’ own dedication and determination. 

In July 2003, just prior to starting at Abingdon School, I went to the Henley Royal Regatta to watch the Abingdon 1st VIII compete against Pangbourne in the quarter final. I arrived at Henley full of anticipation as the Boat Club had, the previous year, won the Triple – the Schools’ Head, National Schools’ and Henley Royal Regatta. We lost! It was a stark reminder, as so often happens in sport, that you are only as good as your last race or match. 

In that same year, we welcomed Matthew Pinsent to open the school’s new Boat House, a legacy from our wonderfully supportive parent body. I remember Matthew’s words so clearly – he said, “I trust that this beautiful new Boat House will inspire generations of Abingdon pupils in the years to come.” And so it has! 

Rowing has often been seen as the school’s flagship sport, and the challenge has been to ensure that other sports enjoy a similar level of success. The Boat Club had and still does have boys representing Great Britain on an almost annual basis, but back in 2003 the rest of the sports lacked international representation. Success in sport doesn’t just happen; it takes an enormous amount of dedication, practice and hard work from a host of different people, not least of all the boys themselves.

At Abingdon we look carefully at the sports coaches we employ, we are not looking for big names, we look for coaches who know how to motivate, support and encourage, as well as teach. Our approach is very much a holistic one, where all boys have the support of a physiotherapist, nutritional advice and a wealth of training opportunities from summer camps for the younger years to national coaches for the 1st XV rugby squad. Sport is fully integrated into the school timetable, which means that at every age group and every level, the pupils have access to specialist coaches. 

One might argue that the opening of the school’s new Sport Centre in 2008 provided the facilities and opportunities that the pupils needed. It certainly brought credence to the Sport & PE Department’s ethos of ‘more opportunities for more pupils’. But it is the pupils themselves that dedicate so many hours to achieving their ambitions, that really makes the difference and we are incredibly proud of all that they have achieved. What is noteworthy, is that these are not boys who have come to the school for sporting scholarships, they are boys that have chosen to study at Abingdon and have excelled in their sporting field because, I feel, they have relished the opportunities offered to them, and because by nature they are ambitious and hardworking. 

Fast-forward 12 years from the quarter-finals at Henley, and we see pupils enjoying unprecedented success, with boys representing their country in no less than 10 different sporting disciplines and two pupils captaining England U18 squads for Rugby and Hockey. The school’s Boat Club maintains its reputation as one of the best in the world with the 1st VIII winning the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and adding another Triple to their name in 2012, on the tenth anniversary of their previous ‘Triple’ victory. 

We congratulate all of our international representatives, but just as important, we applaud all those who compete alongside these individuals in school, giving their peers the opportunity to excel. There is a true camaraderie amongst the Abingdon boys; they, alongside the whole Abingdon School community, are incredibly proud of their achievements.

This past year, we have celebrated the success of the following boys who have: 

Represented a sport at an international level:

Theo Brophy Clews – England U18 Rugby (Captain)

David Bunn – GB Orienteering

William Carter Keall – England U18 Hockey (Captain)

Herman Chan – Hong Kong Fencing

Michael Dewar – Scotland U18 Rugby

Thomas Digby – GB U18 Rowing (Silver Medal – Junior World Championships 2014)

Michael Fabes – GB U18 Aquathlon (4th in World Championships)

Drew Farwell – England Shooting

Magnus Gregory – GB U18 Kayaking

Dominic MacLachlan – Wales U18 Hockey

Ben Schneider – GB U18 Fencing

Joshua Valentine – England Karate

Christian von Eitzen – Germany U19 Athletics

Jack Walsh – England Rowing

Henry Waterson – England Shooting

Samuel Wilmot – England Shooting


Won a national competition:

Ethan Moody – National U15 Windsurfing Champion – 5.8m Class

Charlie Quarterman – Junior Copa De Espana Winner (Cycling)

Adam Teece – Rowing (Winner of GB Trials)


The following boys were in the Oxfordshire County Cricket U17 team that won the national championships:

Leo Bethell

Alex Davies

James Fitzjohn

Max Mannering

Callum Russell

Adam Spears


Andrew Hall is Director of Sport at Abingdon School.    

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