East Ham sports coach welcomes Russian athletes at Newham Town Hall

A fitness coach who runs classes in East Ham got the chance to meet Russian Olympic heroes on their tour of Newham Town Hall.

Janice Francis-Irwin, who runs karate clubs, soca/zumba classes, and bootcamps for all ages in the Hartley Centre, Barking Road, welcomed two legendary athletes and two Olympic officials on behalf of young people in east London.

Also a teacher in neighbouring Ilford and Leytonstone, Janice met Russian heroes from the 50s and 60s including Galina Zybina, who set eight world records for shot put, Galina Yevgenyevna Gorokhova, triple gold fencing medalist and Russia’s fencing coach, Archimandrite Silvester, the official priest of Team Russia, and black belt fifth dan in Taekwondo, and Mikhail Tikhomirov, President of the International Amateur Federation of Sambo Wrestling.

Janice said: “I was in awe. I was especially touched by the women gold medalists, who were like Usain Bolts in their event during the ‘50s and ‘60s.

“One of them beat the world shot put world record eight times while the fencing lady had won three Olympic gold medals and later coached the Russian fencing team.

“Their era was at a time when women’s sport was less common than now and when some women still didn’t even have the vote.

“Wow, these ladies were giants. One is now 82 and the other 73, they look great and still make the effort to travel the world as Olympic ambassadors.

Most Read

“I’m impressed they have find time during a busy Olympic schedule, to visit and inspire a hundred or so young people in East London.”

No stranger to sporting success herself, Janice took gold medals in two bi-ennial World Karate Championships and three European Championships in the 90s.