Bath Start graduates help GB Rowing Team secure Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying places at World Rowing Championships

01 September 2019

Three rowers who began their careers on the GB Rowing Team Start talent development programme at the University of Bath have helped qualify boats for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Rio 2016 silver-medallist Vicky Thornley became the first GB women’s single sculler to gain Olympic qualification for 20 years as she finished fourth at the World Rowing Championships in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria.

Sam Courty (right) and Annie Withers; and, top, Sara Parfett in the women’s four. PICTURES: Nick Middleton

Sport & Exercise Science graduate Sam Courty and partner Annie Withers needed a top-five finish in their B final to gain an Olympic qualification spot for the women’s pair.

After sitting in sixth until the 1500m mark, the pair showed their grit as they powered over the line to take fourth place, tenth overall, and seal a Tokyo 2020 place for GB in the boat where Helen Glover and Heather Stanning – who also started their careers on the Bath Start programme – won gold at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.

“I feel a massive sense of relief, mixed with achievement mixed with happiness,” said Courty, who still represents the University of Bath Rowing Club when competing nationally. “We’ve had a real rollercoaster of a season and that’s how we wanted to end it. We did it!”

Biology graduate Sara Parfett was also delighted after she, Emily Ford, Polly Swann and Holly Hill won the women’s four B final moments after the pairs race to finish seventh overall and gain one of the eight Olympic qualifying spots available.

“Today has been amazing,” she said. “We were so pumped when we heard the pair had got it [Olympic qualification]. As a sweep team we’ve all been seat racing each other to get in this boat – we’ve done so well and the whole team has been part of it. I’m so proud of us. I’m just so happy.”

Click here to find out more about the GB Rowing Team Start programme at the University of Bath.

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