Former triathlete and President of British Triathlon, Sarah Springman, has received a damehood in the New Year Honours, recognising her service to engineering and international sport administration.
Springman was the inaugural President of British Triathlon from 2007-2012, serving as a board member alongside holding Vice-President positions at World Triathlon through the 1990s and 2000s.
She played a central role in the inclusion of paratriathlon into the Paralympic Games programme, as well as swim, bike, run being added to the Commonwealth Games programme and developments within national and international sport.
“I nearly fell off my chair,” Springman said on finding out she’d been awarded a damehood. “The letter you receive basically says ‘would you be prepared to accept the offer to become a Dame Commander, and, if so, please fill out this form by a given date’”.
“At some stage, I’ll get a call to attend Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace. It’s a nice opportunity to get to know the other people being recognised at the same investiture, and also for our family members to be in attendance.”
Springman’s new honour adds to the OBE she received in 1997 and the CBE she was awarded in 2012, with the damehood reflecting the leading and pioneering roles she has played in engineering and sport over the past 30 years.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to receive the damehood for both engineering and sport, I didn’t expect it. I’m grateful to those involved in the nomination for taking the time, because several people would have put it all together.
“I’ve had a lot of emails through since it was announced and a few jokes about it. I can’t get used to being called ‘Dame Sarah’, so I will still just be ‘Sarah’, but it’s nice to have.”
In engineering, Springman was the first female professor of civil engineering in Switzerland and the first female professor of geotechnical engineering in the whole of western Europe. She is about to retire as Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at ETH Zurich, where she is also the Rector, and she will take up the role of Principal of St Hilda’s College, Oxford in February.
“Our team has made a major contribution at ETH and left it, after seven years of me in the role of Rector, in a different place, with teaching much more highly rated,” Springman commented on her time in Switzerland.
“At the end of the day it is enough to know that you’ve done it, but it’s very nice when someone pats you on the back or hangs a medal on your chest.
“Am I the same person as I was ten days ago before I knew, yes I am, and I also know the role that other people have played as well in all of the achievements. They must be acknowledged too.”
Andy Salmon, British Triathlon CEO, added, “It is hard to summarise the contribution that Sarah has made to triathlon, both in Great Britain and internationally. When you consider the additional contributions to sport in general and in engineering, you can see why this recognition is so richly deserved.”
Photo credit: ETH Zurich