Sporting legends prove the business

GOLDEN HERO: Olympic rowing gold medallist James Cracknell addresses guests at the AFC Bournemouth Directors’ Dinner at the club’s Vitality Stadium
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Two sporting heroes entertained nearly 150 directors from businesses across Dorset and Hampshire with inspirational stories at the seventh annual AFC Business Directors’ Dinner. Double Olympic gold medal rower and adventurer James Cracknell, 46, was the keynote speaker at the event, held at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.

He spoke candidly of the trials and tribulations of being an endurance athlete, as well as his crowning achievements and appearances on TV, including Celebrity Island  with adventurer, writer and presenter Bear Grylls.

Such is James’ commitment to training, he practised weeing every night in a bottle whilst prone under the covers in bed – just as he later had to do in a sleeping bag during his South Pole trek in temperatures of up to -50C!

James, 46, also touched upon the aftermath of a near-fatal accident – he was in a coma after struck from behind by the wing mirror of a fuel truck while cycling through Arizona, USA, for a TV programme in 2010; his cycle helmet saved his life.

He suffered a major head injury and spent six months recovering. He is now vice president of the charity Headway and an advocate of cycle helmets.

Steve Fletcher, 46, AFC Bournemouth’s assistant coach for the first team, was also a guest speaker, telling the audience about the club’s forensic attention to detail in training because “marginal gains of one per cent can be the difference about being in the Premier League”.

The former striker at the club, who played with the Cherries for 18 seasons and has one of the stadium stands named after him, also recounted the ‘Great Escape’ goal he scored which saved AFC Bournemouth from relegation to non-league football in April 2009.

He provided the winner in a do-or-die home match against Grimsby – the hundredth goal of his career. That kick kept the club alive and paved the way for Premier League status a few years on, a fairy tale transformation in fortunes.

“The ball came to me, I chested it down, closed my eyes and volleyed the ball into the back of the net.”

Steve also said: “Someone once told me that if they cut me open I’d bleed red and black – that brought tears to my eyes.”

The Directors’ Dinner, which took place in the Top Floor Restaurant and was hosted by Harvey Thorneycroft, offers senior businessmen and women the chance to meet and network in a relaxed environment.

AFC Bournemouth commercial director Rob Mitchell said: “Our seventh annual Directors’ Dinner was a superb event, with a full house, and we were all gripped by the stories told by James and Steve, two great ambassadors for sport.

“In a message which clearly resonated with a lot of business people in the room, what came across was the determination to overcome adversity and the drive to always move forward, accepting that setbacks and defeats are part of the journey.”

AFC Business is AFC Bournemouth’s free-to-join business club which offers a host of benefits to its 1,600 members, such as attendance at regular events and breakfast networking meetings and enables the club to maintain a high profile in the business community.

For further information about the business club, email commercial@afcb.co.uk or call 0344 576 1910.

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