27 “world class” rowers make GB Senior trials grade

[img_assist|nid=2941|title=Anna Bebington (left) is a world class start graduate who took Olympic bronze in Beijing|desc=Photo: Peter Spurrier|link=none|align=right|width=313|height=162]27 rowers, who have been identified or nurtured by the ARA’s World Class Start Scheme, sponsored by Siemens and supported by the National Lottery, are in action today at GB Rowing’s Senior Trials in Belgium.

World Class Start is the system devised by the ARA just over six years ago to identify new talent and nurture emerging talent. The scheme measures potential athletes when they are 16 at school and/or when they are first year University students. Potential recruits undergo a battery of physiological, strength and other tests and, if suitable, are selected to go further with the scheme.

Every season, the Senior Trials constitute the final stage of assessment for a coveted place in GB Rowing’s senior squads for the coming season and provide the rowers with a final opportunity to impress the GB Rowing coaches.

Two-years ago UK Sport also generated publicity for potential new recruits to rowing through their Sporting Giants launch and four rowers, identified through the Giants initiative, and since developed by GB Rowing through World Class Start, have been invited to the trials.

Ben Johnson and Georgie Hazell, training at Reading University Boat Club, and Gemma Akers and Vicky Thornley, both training at Minerva Bath and the University of Bath, all took up rowing less than two years ago. Since then, they have been absorbed into GB Rowing’s World Class Start scheme. They have now progressed enough and recorded good enough results at earlier trials to be invited to the final stage of the trials process.

Meanwhile 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Anna Bebington (Leander Club) and 2008 Olympic silver medallist Annabel Vernon (Marlow RC), both graduates of World Class Start, will be joined in Hazewinkel by fellow graduates Alex Gregory and Sam Townsend (both Reading University), who narrowly missed qualification for the Beijing Olympics in the men’s quadruple scull.

Marcus Bateman (Leander Club), another former World Class Start rower and who narrowly missed selection for the Olympic squad for Beijing, will also race at Senior Trials following several excellent results at trials earlier this year.

Bill Lucas, who was a member of the senior men’s quadruple scull that narrowly missed qualification for the 2008 Olympics, will race at the assessment, as will Charles Cousins, with whom Lucas won a 2008 gold medals and a 2007 bronze medal in the under-23 men’s double.

World Class Start has seen great success with developing talent to under-23 level, and several former under-23 rowers have been given the opportunity to impress senior squad coaches at the Senior Trials.

After taking a year out of the GB Rowing programme to join the Army, 2007 under-23 gold medallist Heather Stanning (Army RC) will race at the Trials. She will be joined by 2008 under-23 rowers Dan Ritchie (Reading Uni) and Mohamed Sbihi (Molesey BC). Sbihi was also a bronze medallist in the 2007 under-23 World Championships.

Meanwhile Tees RC scullers Chris Boddy and Bob Hewitt, twice selected for GB’s under-23 lightweight team, have been invited to race for the senior lightweight squad.

Other rowers from the scheme in action at Hazewinkel this weekend are: Olivia Whitlam; Ben Rowe; Nicky Bartlett; Lindsey Maguire; Brendan Crean; Jenny Farmer; Monica Relph; Davd Marshall; Helen Wood; Katherine Copeland and Adam Freeman-Pask.

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