‘People have told me I’m an inspiration, and if I can inspire people to keep active, then I’ll be happy’

Just in time for International Women’s Day, Val Coleman chats to British Rowing about her success in the sport, her belief in keeping active and her 5k ambitions

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Ninety-three-year-old Val Coleman might not have won her category at this year’s WRICH, but she did improve her own time by 12 seconds, and is rightfully very proud of her result.

“My daughter Martha says I’ll get the title back at 95,” Val says with a smile in her voice, before adding how happy she was for Canadian Alida Kingswood, who won the W 90-94 200m category this year.

From the way Val speaks about rowing you’d think that she’d been at it for years, but her career only really started after she broke her hip a few years ago.

She credits her love of rowing to Martha. While visiting Martha’s boat club during her recovery and watching the boats be put on the water, Val was urged to ‘have a go’. She caught the bug and hasn’t let off since, with no less than four world records to her name.

“I want to keep spreading the word that you’ve really got to keep active once you’re over 60.”

The injury that started Val’s journey into rowing has long since passed – she partly credits this to her time on the indoor rowing machine. “It doesn’t bother me at all now.”

Although her positive attitude is commendable, Val isn’t flippant about her recovery – she’s clear that recovery takes time. “But I had lots of support,” she adds happily.

“The indoor machine at home was a life saver over lockdown.” Val says, and her dedication has made her World and British record holder for the Women’s 90-94 2000m HWT and British record holder for the Women’s HWT 90-94 500m. Now that life is returning to normal, Val enjoys going to her local club, Fishguard & Goodwick Jemima Rowing Club to exercise with friends. “It’s a wonderful club, full of enthusiasm and inclusivity.”

It comes as no surprise that Val is extremely passionate about continuing to keep active later in life. “I want to keep spreading the word that you’ve really got to keep active once you’re over 60. People have told me I’m an inspiration, and if I can inspire people to keep active, then I’ll be happy.”

“I’ve been told that I can do a 5K if I work up to it slowly, so I’m practising – I did 1000m this morning, and 1,500m this afternoon.”

Val’s exercise doesn’t stop at two indoor rowing sessions a day. She swims every morning and does Pilates three times a week, on top of her rowing training. “I love to walk,” she says, mentioning that she’s in several walking groups in Fishguard.

When asked whether she was going to continue to compete, Val’s answer was a very quick “Oh, yes.”

“I’ve been told that I can do a 5K if I work up to it slowly, so I’m practising – I did 1,000m this morning, and 1,500m this afternoon.”

We’re so glad that Val took the time to talk to us for International Women’s Day and we wish her the best of luck for her 5K aspirations!

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