AN Olympic gymnast has inspired students to ‘have no regrets’ at a ceremony to recognise outstanding academic effort and achievement.

Commonwealth gold medallist and Olympic finalist Craig Heap was guest of honour at Haughton Academy’s annual Year 12 awards.

Returning GCSE students were rewarded for their endeavours in a host of areas including maths, science and geography, as well as engineering, citizenship and performing arts.

Special house awards were presented to students for their positive behaviour and attitude as well as trophies for resilience, determination to succeed, high academic achievement and the Alan Sunter award for an act of kindness, which was won by Alice Thompson.

Mr Heap works with Sky Sports Living as a mentor for young people, has appeared as a judge on BBC’s Tumble and commentated on the 2012 and 2016 Olympic games.

He told students how his mother’s disappointment at not being able to play tennis professionally spurred him on to Olympic glory.

“The best bit of advice I ever got was from my mum,” he said. “Her parents didn’t allow her to pursue her tennis dreams so when I was 21 and selected to train with the Great Britain gymnastic team she told me ‘If you want to do something just do it – don’t have any regrets’.

“That was something that stuck with me always, even when there were times that I felt like giving up.

“It was that that spurred me on to captain England to team gold at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games and it was that advice which helped make my Olympic dream come true with a personal best in 2000.”

Star performer of the evening was student Lucy Lei, 16, who collected an impressive haul of six awards in art, English literature, music, RE, science and as the school’s highest academic achiever with six A* and six A grades in her GCSEs.

Lucy, who is now studying A level maths, biology, chemistry and English language at Queen Elizabeth College, Darlington, said: “It’s great to be back at Haughton Academy.

“The teaching staff were always so supportive here and it’s lovely that they appreciate all the hard work that we put in to our exams.”

Principal Jonathan Lumb added: “We were delighted to be able to welcome back our Year 12 students this evening.

“These awards not only recognise their success at Haughton Academy but also celebrate the sustained commitment that they made in all areas of school life.

“By rewarding success in this way we continue to show our appreciation of these remarkable young people.”