British Rowing extending elite status to named pathway rowers

With the third lockdown looking likely to continue for the foreseeable future, British Rowing CEO Andy Parkinson gives an update on the training exemption for elite athletes

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The GB World Championships decal on a blade (Naomi Baker)

During the previous two lockdowns, we have applied an extremely strict interpretation of who is eligible for the elite sport exemptions to coronavirus restrictions within rowing. As you are probably aware, until now this has only applied for those athletes on the senior GB Rowing Team training for Tokyo. This was for two reasons: firstly, the requirements to provide an appropriate environment for these rowers to continue training is extremely onerous (both in terms of resources and costs) particularly when dealing with large groups of athletes and secondly, because we had an end date in sight.

As this third lockdown continues, we will now be extending this elite status to a select group of named athletes from British Rowing pathway programmes, who are on track to be part of the squad at the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games. In a normal cycle many of these athletes would likely have joined the group at our National Training Centre at Caversham by now, however, with our athletes still training for Tokyo and with the smaller maximum safe capacities, this has not been possible.

Throughout the pandemic we have always been as transparent as we can with our decision making and so I wanted to share our thinking and logic behind this to avoid any misunderstandings. The reasons for exploring this now, when we haven’t considered this previously, are:

  • Thanks to the hard work of our staff and coaches, we are confident that we have established strong protocols for operating safely under the elite sport exemption. We’ve been able to test the protocols with our senior GB Rowing Team athletes and these now form a solid foundation on which to base further operations.
  • This would normally be ‘year one’ of the Paris 2024 cycle and therefore these named athletes being unable to train could have a material impact on the potential of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic teams.
  • Subject to having an appropriate COVID-Secure environment available, these named athletes are eligible to train under Government COVID-19 legislation and in many sports with smaller athletes groups, athletes at this level of the pathway have already been granted this status. Previously we were completely focused on establishing a COVID-Secure environment for our Tokyo group but now this is well bedded in, we have the capacity to create additional COVID-Secure environments.

These named athletes will train in small groups at a number of identified British Rowing Elite Development Pathway Hubs, to enable them to carry out on-water training following the appropriate COVID mitigations at a location near them. For the avoidance of doubt, this does not mean that club rowing will be resuming from the clubs who are hosting hubs. You can find an updated list of hubs below.

We recognise that there are many of you out there desperate to get out on the water and please let me reassure you that we are still doing everything we can to ensure that, as soon as it is responsible to do so, we can get as much of our sport open again. I appreciate it might be frustrating to see a very small number of rowers return to the water, however I hope you can understand our reasoning.

I would also like to say a huge thank you to the clubs who are facilitating hubs as well as to those who have supported our GB pathway rowers through the past year.

Please do get in touch if you have any questions related to this via [email protected]

In the meantime, stay safe,

Andy

Andy Parkinson

CEO | British Rowing

Approved Elite Development Pathway Hubs
  • Nottingham
  • Bath
  • Leeds
  • Molesey Boat Club (resuming operations from 17/02/2021)
  • Leander Club (resuming operations from 18/02/2021)
  • Oxford Brookes University Boat Club (resuming operations from 19/02/2021)
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