Bath a magnet for Olympic rowing hopefuls

15 August 2007

Several potential rowing Olympians have emerged from more than 200 people tested this weekend at the University of Bath by the Amateur Rowing Association’s (ARA’s) World Class Start Scheme, sponsored by Siemens, according to the manager of the sport’s talent development programme, Peter Shakespear.The scheme aims to test tall people aged 16–25 who may have the qualities needed to succeed in the sport.

Bath’s participants – just like the 500 tested already in Nottingham and Manchester and the hundreds more still to be tested at Gateshead and Bisham on August 25 and September 1/2 respectively – all responded to a call through the media in February for “Sporting Giants” orchestrated by UK Sport and who are helping with testing alongside the English Institute of Sport.
A place in future GB teams at world and Olympic level has been the catalyst for so many signing up.

“I saw it on the television and thought I’d give it a go”, said 17 year–old Naomi Smith from Swindon who is already a talented netballer. “I thought the tests were good but hard today”.

“The tests were as hard as I expected but they were also enjoyable”, added Liam Smith, 21, from Bath. who plays football locally but thought he’d try something different.

Diana Beech, who travelled to Bath from Hereford, said: “The tests give you more of an insight into yourself. They are hard but enlightening”. Beech made the trip with Hermione Tuck from Hertfordshire with whom she is studying at University in Cambridge. Tuck’s brother, Robin, and cousin Oliver Squire, were also part of the testing. “We’re all pretty tall so we thought we’d give it a go as a family”, said Tuck.

From the 2000 people to be tested overall for height, arm–span, endurance and strength, GB Rowing hopes to select 60 for further training and tests later this Autumn. The group will then be culled from those tests back to 40.

“We need to concentrate our resources on a small group that we can take forward to a higher level”, said GB Rowing Performance Development Coach in Bath, Paul Stannard. “But we’re trying to encourage everyone who’s taken part to think about rowing as a sport they might want to try at club level”.

“We have seen some amazing results around the country already”, said Shakespear of the Siemens and UK Sport supported scheme. “There are five or six from each centre whom we already have our eye on. Of those maybe one or two have reached the “top” standard”, he said. “Through these five weekends, we have tested more people of this height range than in the five previous years. That shows the power of a home–based Games”.

To succeed at rowing, individuals generally need to be tall and to have long “levers” (arms and legs) to generate power. So, to qualify for the testing weekends, each applicant needed to be over 1.90m (6’3″) tall for men and 1.80m (6’0″) for women.

There are though 3 Olympic classes for lightweights (Men 70 kg / Women 57 kg) but these are not being tested through the Sporting Giants scheme.

Rowers also need to exhibit a capacity for endurance and a mindset which will motivate them to undertake the often arduous training programmes at elite level. So, each entrant is tested for physical capacity and mental application.

Some people have no sporting background at all. Others have decided to try rowing after involvement in other sports.

Applicants have been able to choose the centre closest to them : Nottingham (28 July); Manchester (4 August); Bath (11 August); Gateshead (25 August) and Bisham Abbey (nr Marlow) (1 September).

Those who find that rowing is not to their taste will have the opportunity to try out for different Olympic sports through UK Sport’s scheme or they can take up rowing at club level for health and social reasons.

“If we find 15–20 rowers from this scheme for future GB squads this will be a success story”, said GB Performance Director David Tanner. “We have already proven through rowing’s World Class Start Scheme that, by reaching out to non–traditional sources of rowers through state schools in cities, and testing in large numbers that we can have an impact. This new development will give us a significant boost as a sport and has only been made possible by the ever–growing impact of the 2012 Games”.

Chelsea Warr, UK Sport’s Head of Talent was excited by the prospects:

“UK Sport along with the English Institute of Sport has already seen through the Handball ‘auditions’, the impressive calibre of our Sporting Giant applicants. We are incredibly excited that we’ve got a pool of 2,000 athletes to test for Rowing short–listed from the original 3,800 applicants. We are confident that in partnership with the ARA Rowing World Class Start Scheme, we will unearth some impressive talent – many of whom will be oblivious to how good they could potentially be in the future.

“This is a fantastic example of how the power of hosting the Games in 2012 can bring together all the key agencies and their various expertise – in this case British Rowing, UK Sport and the EIS – to drive the quest for medals”.

Photos are available for media use. For further information please contact Tash Carpenter in the GB Rowing press office at Matchtight Limited on 01225 383483 or by email at

Photos: Phil Searle/GB Rowing

Posted: Wednesday 15th August 2007

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