Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Flood takes second elite single sculls title

DEBBIE FLOOD returned to the scene where it all began as she won at Henley Women’s Regatta.

DEBBIE FLOOD returned to the scene where it all began as she won at Henley Women’s Regatta.

She triumphed in the elite single sculls, an event she last won in her first year of rowing in 1998.

The Leander Club captain was among 1,800 competitors — which organisers believe could be a record number of entries — who took part in the 26th regatta between Friday and Sunday.

There were 349 crews from Great Britain, United States, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Ireland and Holland.

Flood, 33, retired from international rowing last summer but she will be back again next week to compete in the Henley Royal Regatta after qualifying with this victory.

She won three races, including the final against junior rower Jessica Leyden, from Hollingworth Lake Club, by one-and-three-quarters of a length.

Flood said: “It’s a fitting way for me to win the event at the end of my career as well because there are a lot of memories attached to the regatta.

“It’s a fantastic regatta and so many international crews come over now. For me, I love racing and it was a tough competition with three great races.” Flood, a two-time Olympic silver medallist, said this will be her main event of the year despite her participation in the royal regatta.

She believes the women’s regatta has grown “massively” over the years, adding: “It’s great to see women’s rowing developing and thriving and that’s reflected by the amount of foreign entries.”

One of the new additions to this year’s event was the online streaming of the races and there were 9,000 unique visitors to the regatta website over the weekend.

Flood’s family watched at home and she said: “It just shows that people are interested in watching online. The organisers put on a fantastic regatta this year and it’s all voluntary.”

She was the only local winner but Upper Thames Rowing Club’s Natasha Harris-White, 17, came a close runner-up in the junior single sculls.

Despite only learning to row last summer, the Henley College student advanced to the final before she was beaten by Anna Fairs, of Tees Rowing Club.

Upper Thames athlete Becks Sadler reached the last four of the senior lightweight sculls while the club’s senior coxed four made the semi-final as well.

Women’s coach John Ewans said: “The women have had another good season this year. It was disappointing to lose one of the girls to a last minute rib injury but on the plus side it meant that we could bring in Alison Gill, who rowed at the Atlanta Olympics.

“The opposition this year was fierce, but we will be back next year to try to add to our recent collection of Henley wins.”

Henley Rowing Club’s U15 quad performed beyond expectations to reach the semi-finals of the U16 event.

The crew, which included Hattie Orr, Maddie Orr, Ellie Thompson and Lauren Edwards, had qualified through a time trial against 21 other crews.

They commanded their home course in the first round to win by two lengths against The King’s School in Worcester in the first round.

On Sunday, the crew, which won at the National Schools Regatta in May, recorded the fastest time in the quarter-finals when they beat Marlow Rowing Club by two lengths in a time of five minutes, 51 seconds.

The girls were pitted against National Schools’ Regatta U16 finalists Tideway Scullers in the semi-final and facing a strong headwind, the Henley crew were beaten by the older girls by three lengths.

Regatta chairwoman Miriam Luke hailed the event as an “amazing success”.

She said there were 350 more rowers — a 75 per cent increase — competing in the academic events.

“It’s on the back of so many people taking up rowing at university after the Olympics,” she said. “The number of competitors we had was outstanding.”

Luke, of Chiltern Close, Henley, said international crews poured in £25,000 in revenue into the town’s economy through family hosting, dining and retail.

She believes it helped to forge many friendships with the foreign rowers, who also attended a talk by Flood at the River and Rowing Museum about racing at the regatta.

Luke also said one of the big successes of this year was the online streaming and she hopes to get sponsors on board next year.

Olympic gold medallist Katherine Grainger presented the awards on Sunday with flower girls also present.

Luke, who was in the quad with Grainger when she won her first silver medal at Sydney 2000, said: “Katherine inspired many of those girls to take up rowing so they were very excited to receive their medals from her.

“We work really hard and want more people from the community to come along, including kids.

“Everyone is welcome, there is no dress code and I think they all really enjoyed it.”

Grainger was returning after winning the women’s pair in 1996 and 1997 but she hasn’t competed for 10 years.

She said: “The standard has got very impressive even in that time. It’s a much bigger regatta now.

“You can see it changing very well and it’s a good thing firstly because it is on this particular stretch of the river and also for women’s rowing.” Grainger, a steward of Henley Royal Regatta who has become a household name since her London 2012 success, believes the Olympics had inspired people to take up rowing.

She said: “The lovely thing is people weren’t just inspired by the event but they’re actually wanting to take part in sports now.

“They’re not just watching on TV but being part of it in their own right. Being a sportswoman is a great world to be part of and it’s lovely to think people are now wanting to join that world.”

Grainger is currently taking a break since the end of the Olympics but enjoyed being back amongst other rowers.

She said: “It’s been nice to come back and be part of the rowing community again because it’s hard being away from it. It’s a lovely environment.”

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