Olympian and Vet

Alumni Tom Barras

Tom Barras came to Esher Sixth Form College in 2010 from Tiffin School to study PE, Biology, Government and Politics A Levels. During his time at Esher, he continued to row at his local club Burway RC and it was while at Esher that he was selected to represent Great Britain at the 2012 World Rowing Junior Championships. It was the beginning of his rise to the Olympics this summer where he won a silver medal. Tom says he still has fond memories of his time at Esher and now juggles rowing with his other job, as a musculoskeletal outpatient physiotherapist.

Subjects studied: PE, Biology, Government and Politics

Secondary school: Tiffin School

Left Esher: 2012

Why did you choose Esher Sixth Form College?

It was the feeling I got from the college and staff which really inspired me to join Esher. Unlike at school, the college felt warm, friendly and welcoming, whilst the teachers were as richly engaging as they were passionate about their respective subjects- It felt as if Esher was a place where learning could become enjoyable again. Amongst the huge modern building and thousands of other students it still managed to feel rather affable.

What were your course highlights at Esher?

The highlights, which immediately spring to mind, are the field trips with my Biology and Politics courses. It again was what the college did you well – blending learning and enjoyment supremely well. I just remember having a great laugh on both of them, and as we were treated more like adults, there was that bit of extra freedom that wasn’t there at school.

How did your teachers inspire you?

My teachers at Esher were fantastic! They seemed to love their subjects and couldn’t do enough to help everyone get the best grades they could. They made their subjects interesting, and they really inspired me to want to learn more than just what was on the curriculum.

What were your career plans for life after Esher?

I knew that I wanted to carry on doing some rowing, in the hope of breaking into the GB setup, whilst I also knew that I wanted to study physiotherapy. This is where my career advisor at Esher was amazing. She really guided me through the process of choosing a university which would satisfy my needs, and even suggested the University I would eventually end up at.

What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?

I would say that when I chose to leave school and go to Esher I was following my gut instinct. It felt a brave move at the time (I think I was the only one from my school to leave before sixth form), however I just loved the feeling I got from Esher. So, I think the advice would be to trust yourself, believe in yourself and make the decisions that you feel are going to be best for you.

Where did you row while studying for your A Levels?

I was rowing at a small club just outside of Staines called Burway Rowing Club. It is such a cosy, friendly and unpretentious club – run by an amazing group of volunteer coaches. I loved every moment at that club and I now really consider it my second home.

How hard was it to be competing/training and studying for your A Levels?

Yes, it was difficult on occasion, but I found some work arounds. When the weather was good, I tried to cycle to college and back (a good two-hour round trip). Whilst in-between lessons I could either do homework, or train at the college gym. Personally, I found it useful to have that break from studying and feel that I probably ended up doing better in my studies because of it.

Any tips for people in similar situations?

Plan your time well. Know both what things you want to do, and have to do, and then hopefully time won’t feel like its running away from you quite so quickly.

What was it like competing in the Olympics?

Alumni Tom Barras Team GB Sign

Amazing. I have not been to a Games before, and with all the Covid mitigations I had initially been a touch sceptical as to whether The Olympics would quite live up to my expectations. However, I need not have worried as they far exceeded anything I could have imagined. The place was in a sense magical, and on a scale far greater than anything I had ever seen before. The Japanese people were incredible hosts, always so polite, friendly and supportive. I had an awesome time and really hope that I may be able to experience that buzz again in Paris.

What is your one stand-out memory from the 2020 games?

Alumni Tom Barras With Team

I think saying: ‘when I won a medal’ would be too obvious. So I shall give two other stand out memories instead; the first being when we first arrived at the athlete village and all the messages, gifts and presents that were bestowed upon us. Then the second has to be the food hall – where nearly 100,000 meals were served daily and we had an almost unlimited choice of different dishes from across the World. It was great for us, but I dread to think how those athletes who had to make weight survived!

Where do you keep your medal?

I would love to say that I now take it everywhere with me, however it is safely tucked up at home, in its case to protect it from any damage.