British Rower sparks scheme of opportunity for 1500 school-children

World medal-winning rower Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell of the GB Rowing Team has sparked a scheme which will bring almost 1500 schoolchildren to watch the Samsung World Rowing Cup at Eton Dorney on June 21st.

The remarkable effort, which he has organised virtually single-handed, means that 43 schools and children from 8-17 years-old will experience the iconic Olympic venue free of charge and see some of the heroes of 2012 in action. Each school will be paired with a GB rower to add a personal touch to the experience.

Reilly-O’Donnell and his GB team-mates have used their local and national connections to persuade businesses – big and small – to pay for a class to visit the event.

“I am passionate about my sport and wanted to show children how exciting it can be but also how normal we all are, that being an elite athlete is not something unattainable and beyond their reach”, said Reilly-O’Donnell.

“Initially I thought it would be great if I could get six schools paired up with businesses and rowers. That was my aim”, he added.

Despite support from the World Cup organisers and his GB team-mates, he admits that it was hard at the start.  “It was a struggle to get things rolling but then I blogged about what I was doing and I got 50 e-mails in the next 24 hours”.

Companies across the UK have now signed up – from clothing giant Next, to Laurent Perrier, to small engineering companies and local firms. Each has pledged to send a school class which can be from 15 to 30 schoolchildren with six teachers or accompanying adults.

“It really took off from the blog onwards and when we were close to the 1000 mark I thought I would give it another big push”, said Reilly-O’Donnell. “Now we look set to potentially break the 1500 barrier”.

Schools from as far afield as Cheshire, Birmingham and Bedford will make the trip to Eton Dorney and all bar one are state schools. One class will be supported to attend by the GB Rowing Team women’s squad who have paid for a class. Other rowers like Olympic medallists Andy Triggs Hodge, James Foad and Mohamed Sbihi have either backed a school or brought a business on board.

“Quite often the schools that signed up were keen to come because they had started an indoor rowing programme. For many of the businesses, someone had been to see the rowing at the Olympic Games or watched it on television and wanted to share it with others. It’s all going to be great and I am relieved that it has worked well”, he said.

Reilly-O’Donnell has set up and administered the scheme whilst training with the GB Rowing Team squad with hopes of competing at Dorney himself. 

All advance tickets for the World Cup for Sunday 23rd of June are now sold-out , but there will be a limited number of tickets available to buy at the on-site box office on the day  and 150 available through a planned joint-ticket scheme with Royal Ascot, also being announced later today. Further details of this will soon become available on the Royal Ascot website at:

Tickets are still available for Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd.  Friday will see heats in all events.  Saturday will include semi-finals as well as seven finals – in the international and para-rowing classes.

For more information on World Cup Rowing tickets, times and prices visit:

Find out more about Nathaniel’s scheme in his own words in the May edition of Rowing & Regatta magazine – available now!