Olympic gold medallist backs rowing programme for east London youngsters

Kate Dampster

Kate Dampster - Credit: Archant

Olympic gold medallist Mark Hunter may have retired from international rowing, but he is determined to help youngsters in London to emulate his success.

Hunter, who won the lightweight double sculls at Beijing 2008 and followed that up with a silver medal at London 2012, as well as claiming two world championships, will be mentoring young rowers at Hackney-based Mossbourne Rowing Academy.

The academy is a groundbreaking performance rowing programme in the state sector, designed to give youngsters from less privileged areas of the country the chance to compete with their public school counterparts.

Since the academy was opened by Hunter in 2010, Mossbourne students have twice competed at Henley Royal Regatta, arguably the world’s most prestigious rowing event.

And the 35-year-old, who grew up in east London and represented Havering at the London Youth Games before embarking on his successful career, is hoping to help steer more Mossbourne rowers in the right direction.

“The Mossbourne Rowing Academy is the perfect opportunity for young people to get the support they need to compete at the highest level,” said Hunter.

“I was born and started my career in east London and I wish there had been something like this around when I was growing up. So I am delighted to lend my support to a fantastic programme that is already delivering results.”

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One member of the programme, Jucha Willers-Moore, won bronze in the girls’ J16 double sculls at last year’s National Schools Regatta and has now been selected to train with the Dutch national team.

Her squad-mate, Year 13 student Louis Wyrwas is hoping to compete for Great Britain this summer after impressing at recent junior trials and earning himself an invitation to an elite training camp at Caversham.

With a specialist performance coach and purpose-built gym, Mossbourne recruits internally and externally for young people with the necessary physical attributes and determination to reach the top.

They will be seeking new blood for both Years 10 and 12 this September and are holding an open evening next month for prospective candidates and their parents.

“It is very important we give students the same support and opportunity as their opposition,” said Mossbourne principal Peter Hughes.

“After seeing our crew compete [at Henley] back in 2012, I realised that we were playing catch-up with the traditional rowing schools and that we needed to start preparing our athletes earlier in order to level the playing field.

“Although at Key Stage 4 the rowers won’t be doing the same volume of training as those in the sixth form, they will be learning how to conduct themselves properly as athletes, and laying the foundations for future success.”

Ideally, students will be tall – the Year 12 intake will require a height of over 178cm for girls and 188cm for boys – but shorter athletes are also considered for the lower year groups or if they have previously rowed at a good level.

However, for students who meet the physical requirements, no previous rowing experience is necessary. Athletes who are accepted onto the programme also get to compete for nearby Lea RC, one of the biggest rowing clubs in the UK.

Year 10 candidates must live within Mossbourne’s catchment area, which includes the boroughs of Hackney, Islington and Camden and most of north and east London, as well as parts of Essex.

The open evening takes place on Monday February 3 (from 5pm to 7pm) and will involve a short presentation followed by an opportunity to meet coaches, teachers and current athletes, view the facilities, and ask questions.

To register for the Mossbourne Rowing Academy open evening, email Jack Kliber at jackkliber@mossbourne.hackney.sch.uk or ring the school on 020 8525 5200.

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