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Heroes on parade

PUBLISHED: 15:40 16 June 2010 | UPDATED: 11:46 23 August 2010

HUNDREDS cheered victorious rugby and rowing teams as they paraded in an open-top bus to celebrate a successful sporting season. Gravesend Rugby Football Club (GRFC), recent winners of the Kent Cup and League, joined Gravesend Rowing Club, who triumphed

HUNDREDS cheered victorious rugby and rowing teams as they paraded in an open-top bus to celebrate a successful sporting season.

Gravesend Rugby Football Club (GRFC), recent winners of the Kent Cup and League, joined Gravesend Rowing Club, who triumphed in the week-long, 500-mile London-to-Paris race, on the red bus on Saturday.

Leaving the rugby club in Donald Biggs Drive, in Gravesend, the double-decker wound through the town centre before arriving at the Civic Centre in Windmill Street, to rapturous applause.

The crowds were then treated to a performance by the youngest members of dance troupe Taboo, who got to the semi-finals of ITV's Britain's Got Talent.

Addressing crowds from the balcony of the Civic Centre, GRFC captain Jamie Forsyth thanked everyone "from the bottom of my heart".

Speaking afterwards, he said: "We are all overwhelmed by the support shown today. We have never done an open-top - we're not Man U at the end of the day! We weren't expecting it at all to be honest.

"But it's really good to get recognition for our achievements."

Asked what he put their success down to, he replied: "It's down to a good team ethic and a lot of hard work! And I remind them they are not superstars, they are there to work hard and it has paid off.

"But we can't get complacent now - we have to carry on as we are and set our sights on the next goal."

Last month, five members of the rowing club embarked on the London-to-Paris challenge to raise money for EllenorLions Hospice and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Although the five-day trip almost cost them their lives - they capsized a mile from the Thames shore - they made it in 52 hours, more than two hours faster than the runners-up, and raised more than £2,000.

Rower Mark Watkins said: "It's been a superb day. I have never experienced anything like this before. It really puts Gravesend on the map."

His mother, June Watkins, said she was very proud of her son, adding: "I have lived in Gravesham all my life and I have never seen anything like this. It's really special."

Helen Vine, 33, of Tyler Close, Gravesend, was at the parade to support daughter Lauren in Taboo. She said: "We're all really proud of them. It's a wonderful opportunity for them and they love doing it."

Gravesham Mayor Bill Lambert said: "It's been a wonderful day and it reflects very well on Gravesham that we have a fantastic rugby club, some outstanding rowers and young talent in Taboo.

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