Athlete in the Spotlight: Jonny Walton

GB Rowing Team news recently caught up with Jonny Walton in the third in a series of spotlight features on squad members. We’ll add another each month (male and female) so look out for future editions. Tweet us via @GBRowingTeam if there is an athlete you would like to see featured in October or November.

Jonny Walton

Birthdate: 06/10/1990
Height: 190cm
Weight: 84kg
Hometown: Leicester
Education: Brookevale High School, Groby Community College, Loughborough University
Began rowing in: 2005
Clubs: Leicester RC, Loughborough Students RC, Leander Club

At the start of the 2014 rowing season, Jonny Walton was placed in a new GB men’s double scull partnership with Twickenham’s John Collins. At 23 and 25 respectively, Walton and Collins are young rowers of great promise within the GB set-up and have had a full season together to develop their partnership in the boat.

Jonny’s rowing career began back in his hometown of Leicester, at Leicester Rowing Club, when he was fifteen years old. At Leicester RC he was coached by Howard Marsh, who continued to coach him whilst Jonny studied for a BSc in Sport & Exercise Science at Loughborough University. At University his rowing continued to develop and he began competing for Great Britain at age group level.

In 2008 Jonny represented GB at the Coupe de la Jeunesse where he won a gold medal in the junior men’s double scull. He also won the Fawley Challnege Cup at Henley Royal Regatta that year, racing in the junior men’s quad.

Jonny was a member of the GB squad that competed at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, in 2009. Here he was fourth in the single scull, won a silver in the men’s quad and a gold in the men’s eight.

From 2010 to 2013, Jonny competed at three consecutive U23 World Championships, bettering his finishing position by one place each year. In 2013 Jonny also raced in the men’s single scull at World Cup regattas in Sydney and Eton Dorney, and replaced the injured Graeme Thomas in the men’s quad for the World Cup in Lucerne, finishing fourth.

Jonny’s breakthrough in the senior squad then came when he was placed in the men’s double with John Collins. The duo’s first competitive outing came at the European Championships in Belgrade, where they raced well to make the A final, finishing 6th overall. The second World Cup in Aiguebelette saw them go one better as they finished 5th, and at the final World Cup in Lucerne they stepped up again to finish in 4th place, just outside the medals.

An excellent maiden season together for Jonny and John came to its conclusion at the World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam. The crew battled hard in their heat and repechage races but just fell short of a place in the A final, finishing 4th in their semi before winning the B final by clear water.

As the squad prepare to return from their orientation camp in Rio de Janeiro, GB Rowing Team news spoke to Jonny about all things rowing-related, as well as life off the water.

GBRT: How and why did you first start rowing?

JW: My family were a big part in me starting to row. My Dad used to row and now umpires around the country and I would often go to watch and support my sister race at regattas. At Burton Regatta I was fed up of sitting on the bank watching and fancied giving it a go. The following year I went back and won my novice pot. 

GBRT: What has been your biggest success and your biggest disappointment in the sport so far?

JW: This season has been a success in the double with John, my first season racing in an Olympic boat producing my best results thus far. After years of racing each other through U23s and Uni, going to U23 worlds in a quad together John and myself never rowed in a double until we came together back in October 2013 at Brit Champs. We won silver there and then were selected as an international combo back in May to race the season. It was great to finish inside the A final in our first competitive race together, finishing 6th at the Euros. We then did one better at each World Cups, 5th in Aiguebelette and 4th in Lucerne. It was a big disappointment not to A final at Worlds after this great season. However, I want to right the wrongs and am ready and raring for a new season and really looking forward to 2015!

GBRT: What are some of the most memorable moments you’ve had so far?

JW: Henley Royal has often been races to remember. I love the Henley buzz and there’s not many weeks in the year that can match it. When I was a junior we had a dead heat and had to re-row, we then went on to win the Fawley. Last year winning the Queen Mother was great and this year’s regatta although the disappointment of not winning, it was a pretty close race against the French!

GBRT: What aspirations do you have in the sport?

JW: A dream of mine is to compete at the Olympic Games, with my ultimate aspiration of becoming Olympic Champion.

GBRT: Who is your best friend within the rowing set up and why?

JW: I’m so lucky to be living and working with some of my closest friends from the squad. We can pick each other up and always have a laugh through training. Whether it’s reminiscing about the BUCS 2012 Men’s doubles final, in the car back to Henley or round a table at Nandos it’s great to be around such a good bunch of lads. 

GBRT: Who do you most look up to?

JW: My old coach Howard Marsh who has been and is an inspiration to me. He developed me when I was a junior and continued coaching me until I got into the Senior Team. He has been a great coach, mentor and has given up so much time to help me reach my dream. 

GBRT: What hobbies and hidden talents do you have?

JW: When I was a junior I was also competing in cross country mountain biking, I had to make the decision to fully commit to rowing. It was a tough decision to make back then so I’ve always enjoyed going out on my bike since. I also have a great card trick so there’s a secret magician inside me. 

GBRT: What are some of your favourite bands?

JW: I really like house music, whether it’s progressive to deep it’s always playing in the background of our flat. Listening to it on all our long ergs takes me back to the fun I had in Ibiza. Axwell & Ingrosso, Nicky Romero, Showtek and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike to name just a few!

GBRT: Favourite books?

JW: I like to read Lee Childs’ books, One Shot got me hooked and have enjoyed reading Jack Reacher since. 

GBRT: Favourite films and TV shows?

JW: Gladiator, the Fast and Furious films and I’m a bit of a sucker for the Hunger Games films..  We finished watching Luther when we were last on camp so waiting to see if another series is released. 

GBRT: What job aspirations do you have outside of rowing?

JW: I graduated in 2012 with a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and have always had a strong interest in Sport. Once I have finished rowing it would great to still be involved in sport and have an input into other athletes’ training, helping them reach their dreams.

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