I am A Rower ...
LISTEN TO ELLIE’S STORY
“Rowing gives you self-esteem because you show up for yourself again and again. On those days when you really don't want to train you still go and do it ...”
I was picked out at a university sports fair for rowing because of my height. I am 6’1”and growing up, I was very aware of that, but when you start rowing, suddenly everyone wants to be your size – it gave me a different perspective on myself.
My learning curve was steep. The coach took three of us with big erg scores out of the novice programme and put us in an 8+. We were terrible but I learned so much and I loved the structure of rowing from the start. I remember going to Center Parcs for Christmas and spending all my time in its tiny gym doing intervals. Once you start thinking like that it becomes part of your everyday life – then you’re a rower.
I’m part of the Lea’s performance women’s squad, training eight to 10 times a week. Rowing makes you realise pain is temporary, and you can always do more than you think. That shows up in a race – you come off the start and think, ‘I’m gonna die’. But you push through and finish thinking, ‘I don’t know how I just did that’. It also gives you self-esteem because you show up for yourself again and again. On those days when you really don’t want to train you still go and do it and you feel like a different person.
Rowing still isn’t a very diverse sport though. Being mixed race, I remember looking around at regattas and thinking nobody looks like me. To me, the Lea feels like London – it’s multicultural, everyone’s welcome and you’re surrounded by all kinds of people. Changing representation in rowing has to start with who we see at the Olympics. When the only athletes you’re seeing at the highest level aren’t multicultural it’s more difficult for people back down the line to say, ‘I’m going to do this anyway’. Kids also need to be taught about it at school, even if that’s just saying this sport exists and you can do it.
I love early mornings when the water is still and you’re out in nature and you don’t have to think about anything but your boat. And I love racing. In a regatta fighting for the last 500 metres, you give it absolutely everything you have. Then you go over the line first and although you’re in pain and can’t breathe, it’s still the best feeling. And because you’re doing it with a crew of people you’ve been training with, you’re doing it as much for them as yourself.