She’s best known as an Olympic swimmer but is now following her boyfriend, Saints skipper Jon Wilkin, into the business of coffee shop ownership.
But Francesca Halsall had some top tips for Edge Hill Sport graduands garnered from her career in elite sport at their graduation ceremony.
Francesca, who herself was made an Honorary Doctor of Science at the ceremony, said that it’s never too early to start working towards a goal.
“Daily discipline and hard work are the only keys to success,” she said. “I’ve heard the words ‘on your marks’ followed by an electronic beep hundreds and hundreds of times and this procedure is an amazing anecdote to procrastination. You have no reason to think, just act – do it now.”
Southport-born Francesca retired earlier this year from a career that saw her represent Great Britain in the Beijing, London and Rio Olympics and compete in many other international competitions, breaking records and bringing home 14 gold, 14 silver and nine bronze medals from World, European and Commonwealth championships.
She is now a businesswoman, having opened a new coffee shop in the heart of Altrincham, a shared venture with two other Olympians, Jess Varnish and Liam Phillips.
She encouraged those entering careers in elite sport to show emotion, rather than repress it, saying: “It’s ok to show emotion, just not to your competitors.
“I’ve bawled my eyes out on national television which wasn’t my finest moment but learning to vent to the right people at the right time made me stronger and bottling things up is never a good option.”
Dr John Cater, Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University said: “In January Francesca announced her retirement.
“She moved back to the North West, having spent the best part of a decade with the Great Britain elite squad at Loughborough, joining her partner, Jon Wilkin, who many of you will know as the captain of St. Helens RLFC.
“She has brought back with her 14 gold, 14 silver and nine bronze medals from World, European and Commonwealth championships and has been, without doubt, the pre-eminent female swimmer of the past decade.
“It is a privilege to welcome her back home.”