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World record breaking Paralympics star receives honorary degree

World record breaking gold medallist rower Tom Aggar has been awarded an honorary degree by Middlesex University in recognition of his sporting achievements. 

World record breaking gold medallist rower Tom Aggar was awarded an honorary degree by Middlesex University on Thursday 19 July in recognition of his sporting achievements. 

Tom, who is the reigning Paralympic and World Champion in men's single rowing, has again been selected to represent the UK at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Unbeaten in his event, he has become a firm favourite for gold, after picking up gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Beijing and in four World Rowing Championships. 

Despite Tom’s rapid success in rowing he only took up the sport as part of his rehabilitation for a spinal injury he sustained as a student.  During his rehabilitation he used a rowing machine which uses electrical currents to activate nerves in parts of the body affected by paralysis. He later progressed to use this machine for his training and to make his competitive debut at the 2006 National Indoor Championship. 

The following year, he won the gold medal  in 1000m men’s single sculls (rowing) at the 2007 World Rowing Championships, setting a new world record in the process. He took gold for the men’s single sculls at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, and has twice defended his World Championship title, setting another new world record in 2009 and winning by massive 16 seconds ahead of the second competitor.  This extended his unbeaten run at the 2010 World Championships in New Zealand. 

His determination led him to become a Paralympic Champion in only his second year of competitive rowing and he is now currently in training for the 2012 Paralympics in London. 

Middlesex University Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll said: “Tom is an extraordinary athlete whose courage is an inspiration to all our students, particular the ones who will also be representing the UK at the London 2012 games.  His discipline and passion for sport have seen him overcome obstacles to attain incredible success and set world records, and Middlesex wishes him the best of luck in the upcoming Paralympics.”

Tom said: “I am extremely proud and honoured to receive this honorary doctorate from Middlesex University. It comes at a time of much anticipation and excitement before the Paralympic games, and although my mind is firmly fixed on achieving in only a few weeks time, to be recognised in this way at this time is incredible and I feel extremely privileged."

The four-time world champion and defending gold medallist’s astounding success also saw him named as the 2010 World Adaptive Crew of the Year by FISA, the world governing body for rowing, which said Tom had ‘set the standard in adaptive rowing’.

Tom, who grew up in Barnet, collected his honorary degree at a ceremony at the University’s Hendon campus in north London. 

The award was made as part of the University’s annual graduation celebrations, with honorary degrees presented to people who have made an outstanding contribution to their profession or community.

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