Olympics star Grainger backs new club

Katherine Grainger believes rowers at a new community club in Hammersmith might just follow in her footsteps to become Olympic champions as more youngsters gain access to the sport.

Speaking at the official opening of Fulham Reach Boat Club, the London 2012 gold medallist told West London Sport: “It’s not set up deliberately to come up with the next Olympic champion but someone might come from here – you never know.

“Other people will just do it for the love of it. A lot of people will just do it to keep fit or for something to do with their friends.”

The club is the first in more than 50 years to launch on the tidal Thames, helped by £3m in funding from developer St George, in an agreement with Hammersmith & Fulham council linked to the construction of nearly 750 riverside flats, plus offices, restaurants and bars.

Several schools, including the Hammersmith and Chelsea academies, are already taking part in weekly sessions.

Some pupils, aged between 13 and 18, are taking part in six-week ‘taster’ sessions as part of their PE curriculum, while others will row regularly for a year, aiming to become competitive.

Many were on hand on Monday to help open the new facility, to meet Grainger and to try on her Olympic medal.

Scotswoman Grainger was one of the stars of London 2012

“I know myself all the benefits that rowing can have,” said Grainger.

“It’s given me huge opportunities internationally, some of the best friends I could have ever hoped for and an amazing way to challenge myself.

“It’s lovely that this club is starting and that young people have the chance to try something that they would have never had the chance to otherwise.”

Grainger, 38, from Glasgow, won Olympic gold in London 15 years into her international rowing career, following three successive silver medals.

She announced four weeks ago that she will return to training with the Great Britain squad, and if all goes to plan she will go for gold again at Rio 2016.

“Having had a massive break, I feel very excited. I feel definitely recharged,” said Grainger, who is now on a full training load with an average of 18 sessions per week.

“The 2012 project is done and it’s exciting looking forward to something new. It’s a little bit challenging but the body does remember.

“I have taken two years out. The sport has changed in that time – some people have come in, some have gone – but it is still familiar.

“Universally, coaches, support staff and the athletes were all really lovely. I got teasing banter but everyone was really supportive and encouraging.”

Grainger’s comeback race was as part of a veteran crew at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, USA on Saturday.

Her crew of internationals dating back to the 1992 Olympics, with an average age of over 40, set a new course record to win their event.

“We covered an amazing 20 years of women’s rowing in Great Britain – some people were established long before I came on the scene. To get the chance to row with them was amazing,” said Grainger.

“We committed back in March to see if we could get to Boston. It was a lovely mix of everything you love about rowing.

“Some people hadn’t rowed for 10 years but the mindset, the competition, the demand for excellence were still there and the desire to win was still as strong as ever.

“It was an amazing project. It wasn’t about going to have a nice time in Boston: it was about going there to win and we did that in style.”

Her next test will be GB Rowing Team long-distance trials in Boston, Lincolnshire in mid-November, the first of a series of trials before crews for the 2015 Olympic qualifying season are announced in April.

Also in Boston, US, on Saturday, British Olympic greats Sir Steve Redgrave and Chiswick resident Sir Matthew Pinsent raced together for the first time in 14 years, but their crew finished fifth in their category.

“It was a good row and good coxing by Garry Herbert. We thought it would do the trick but the standard here is impressive,” said their crew-mate Martin Cross.

Martin Gough writes the weekly rowing blog The Rowlup – http://www.therowlup.com – out every Friday.

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