From Staffordshire University undergraduate to triple Olympic gold medallist.
Gold medal winning rower Andrew Triggs Hodge MBE is using his sporting skills to improve the life chances of underprivileged young people.
He may have become a world-beating sportsman but amazingly Andrew Triggs Hodge MBE didn’t take up rowing until he joined the boat club while studying for an environmental science degree at Staffordshire University. That chance encounter with a sport he was to fall in love with changed the course of his life.
Just two years after graduating in 2000 he won his first senior international vest for Great Britain. He was part of the winning crew for Oxford in the 2005 Boat Race, became a double world champion in 2005 and 2006 and won Olympic gold medals in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
He was awarded an MBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours list and is both an Honorary Doctor and Pro-Chancellor of Staffordshire University. Yet it all started in a small, grassroots boat club at Staffordshire University where he would start to develop his skills on Rudyard Lake.
“It started off on a social basis but soon it grew, and soon it was something I was really enjoying,” he says.
Andrew credits the sport with having a dramatic impact on his life and his progression while at university.
“There was a direct correlation between rowing and my grades. When I was rowing, I felt incredibly motivated and that motivation reached other parts of my life. I became more organised, and I was better with time management. It had a profound change on me.”
Winning his first senior international vest for Great Britain in 2002, Andrew was part of the eight which reached the final of the World Championships in Seville. A year later it was with the eight that he won his first Bronze medal at the World Championships in Milan.
Continuing his studies at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, with a Master’s Degree in water science, policy and management, Andrew stroked the winning crew in The Boat Race against the University of Cambridge in 2005.
After becoming double World Champion in 2005 and 2006, Andrew defended Great Britain’s Coxless Four title at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to win his first Olympic Gold medal. He successfully defended his title four years later with his crew at the London 2012 Olympic rowing regatta.
Andrew was world champion in the men's eight and four in 2013 and 2014 but missed an entire racing season in 2015 due to ill health. He still won a place in the men’s eight at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he picked up his third Olympic gold medal. He announced his retirement from competing after the Rio Olympics, but still works with the sport he loves.
Rather than searching for Great Britain’s next Olympic rowers, Andrew’s role as director of corporate engagement at London Youth Rowing involves using the sport he loves to improve the life chances of underprivileged young people.
“It’s a role I started in April 2021 and it’s fantastic,” says Andrew. “There’s no better way of using three Olympic gold medals. I’m part of a great team and doing what I can with them to support young people.
“London Youth Rowing is all about giving young people from disadvantaged communities opportunities, wider life skills and professional skills.
“Rowing involves teamwork and personal performance. It can have a huge role to play in motivating young people.
“It’s not about finding the next Olympic champion, far from it. In fact if we did find someone with that sort of potential we’d probably pass them on for someone else to help. Our job is to give people the best possible chance in life.” As well as the capital, London Youth Rowing is working with schools in the Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield areas.
Andrew is proud of his strong ongoing relationship with Staffordshire University and will be linking with the university’s London campus.
He adds: “I see my role with Staffordshire University as a great opportunity to support the development of young talent – as it did with me – and to help prepare students for their own paths through life. I hope to be able to give students and graduates of the university the confidence to find their own paths to success."
The award of Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University is bestowed upon Andrew in recognition of his inspirational journey from Staffordshire Graduate to three times Olympic Gold medal winner and his role in inspiring future generations about the possibilities of education.