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Marlow Depeza – ‘It didn’t take much to make me love rowing’

Marlow was recently elected by his peers to the post of Junior Vice Captain for Boys for 2019–2020. He did his GCSEs at City Academy in Hackney, choosing rowing as one of his sports for GCSE PE, and joined the Lea R.C. in 2018. His potential was quickly spotted and he was fast-tracked to the Boys’ Squad. He is now studying Maths, Physics and Geography A-levels at Camden Sixth Form and would like to attend an American university. Interviewed recently, here’s what he had to say about his rowing.

How did you get into rowing?

I needed to do a third sport for GCSE and had signed up to do a six-day residential rowing course at Eton College. Needing to improve, I joined the Satellite Club [funded by Sport England] at Lea R.C. I was only in it for one session before I was moved to the Boys’ Squad. It didn’t take much to make me love rowing. In the Boys’ Squad, I was better on the erg than on the water. My coach Mark saw that I had the best scores out of most the J16s and had potential but wasn’t there yet. Swimming had given me the necessary fitness, so Yewande [a coach seconded to the club from British Rowing] worked with me on the swingulator to help me improve on the water.

What’s the highlight of your rowing career so far?

Being selected for the GB v France trials – it was more exciting than actually winning! I also loved competing at Brit Champs in the J16 boys’ quad. We didn’t do many sessions together but we came second. It’s been a steep learning curve. When I’m tracking my progress, when I’m seeing 30-second improvements in the water sessions we do on Tuesday mornings before school, when we’re preparing for Junior World trials, those are real highlights for me.

Apart from the rowing, what do you enjoy most about being part of Lea R.C.?

On Saturday and Sunday mornings there’s an enjoyable atmosphere compared with what I was doing before [swimming] because it’s outdoors; I’m an outdoors person.

How does your family support you?

My family have always been supportive, whether I was swimming or rowing; paying the fees, and little things like getting up with me for morning sessions so I’d have the best possible chance at everything.

What do you plan to do with your rowing career?

I want to get as far as I can; the Olympic Games, international level competition, a medal at Henley…

What are your priorities as Junior Vice Captain?

I want to be someone who the juniors can talk to about problems they’re experiencing with the club or concerns they may have, if any, then relay that to the Rowing Committee. I’d also like to understand more about the club and its dynamics.

What’s your advice to a new junior joining the Lea?

Get in a single as quickly as possible. I was strong and fit from swimming but less fit people beat me because they had the technique. People get frustrated but you have to give it time, you need time in the sport. Even stick at it longer than you want.

What’s with the pink?! [Marlow is often kitted out in pink]

I’ve always liked pink, it’s my favourite colour. On the rowing scene, if people see pink, they see me as not very serious. I’m trying to prove them wrong; you can have fun and still get to a high standard.

How do you balance rowing with study commitments?

I started rowing seriously at the end of GCSEs, so I didn’t really have to balance training sessions with studying. But I’d say I always had times when I did my studying; you have to find the days to do that. Now at sixth form we have lots of free periods, so I can manage my studies and also improve my rowing times.

What would you say to someone who isn’t sure about continuing with rowing because of their school commitments?

Doing a sport while studying is healthier than just studying on its own; it’s a huge help at tough revision times and personally I’ve always continued to do sports throughout my exams. I just didn’t get as stressed as other people.

How does rowing compare to other sports you do or have done?

Swimming is a sport where clubs around the country are more connected, so coaches will always try to top one another. Sessions are overloaded and you do get tired; it’s quite a lot to deal with, swimming when you’re tired. When I started rowing I realised how much rest you need and that you have to recover and can do so at a faster rate with rest sessions in between. I can communicate with Mark (my coach) if I’m feeling exhausted. I didn’t feel communication was that easy in swimming.

Who have been your most influential role models – sporting or otherwise?

I don’t have any particular role models but I do watch YouTube videos of rowers and athletes in races to always try to perfect my technique by analysing their styles.

What do you most enjoy about rowing?

The beauty of it. Getting in a boat is a beautiful thing: you can go up and down the river and see things, it’s so open. It’s more satisfying than any other sport.

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