From beginner rower to world masters champion in two seasons #YourStories

Earlier this month, Lakeland rower Sam Ayers won two gold medals at the World Rowing Masters Regatta in Hungary – after only taking up the sport two years ago


Lakeland Rowing Club masters Sam Ayers and Nick Cowan teamed up to win two gold medals at the recent World Rowing Masters Regatta in Hungary, despite Sam only learning to row in December 2016.

Sam said: “Coming away from the World Masters with two gold medals is far more than I thought possible. Our aim as a crew was to gain race experience at the highest level in order to prepare for 2020. We’d raced well at a regional level but didn’t really know where we were in the bigger picture.”

Competing in a D double, with Nick at rowing age 60 and Sam 49, the duo had a really solid row. They were probably more surprised than anyone to find they had won their event in a personal best time, especially as they were the oldest crew in the D category.

They also entered the C mixed double for race practice, and in another personal best won that race as well in an extremely tight and hard-fought finish. They were five years older than any other winning boat in the C division.

Possibly the greatest thrill for me was hearing start umpire Matthew Pinsent call our boat ‘GB’

Nick said: “It was a fantastic experience to row in such perfect conditions and against such a bunch of good boats. There were 52 countries represented and in each of our races, there were boats from eight different countries.

“Possibly the greatest thrill for me was hearing start umpire Matthew Pinsent call our boat ‘GB’ as he named each boat in the start sequence.”

Nick topped his week off with a win in the F double sculls with Andy Jaggard from Durham ARC to make it three gold medals.

Rewind to late 2016 and Sam first got involved in rowing after a hamstring injury prevented her from running with Keswick Athletic Club. After a learn to row course at Lakeland Rowing Club, coached by Nick, Sam bought her own single and custom-painted it in her fitness company’s BodyFit colours of blue and orange.

Sam added: “It’s been a fantastic journey from beginner to ‘rower’ and interesting to compare how World Masters competitive rowing compares with the equivalent in running and triathlon circles. Nick is a brilliant coach and a driven athlete and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to row with him.”

I taught Sam to row, but she taught me how to train and we have both taught each other to race

And while Nick had competed for years in his single, it wasn’t until he met fitness expert Sam that his training changed completely.

“I taught Sam to row, but she taught me how to train and we have both taught each other to race.”

Under Sam’s training regime, which she has introduced to all the competitive rowers at Lakeland Rowing club, Nick is still producing personal bests on the rowing machine as he is approaching 60.

But despite having two gold medals from the World Masters to her name, Sam still finds it hard to call herself a ‘rower’ rather than a ‘runner’ because, “I’ve still got so much more to learn and improve upon”.

She said: “However, I’m looking forward to the next few years to see how much we can progress both individually and as a crew. Whatever the future brings, the memories from the 2019 World Masters will be treasured.”

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