LEANDER captain Debbie Flood and several promising young oarsmen from Shiplake College made their mark in style at the Slovenian national championships, held on Lake Bled on Saturday.
But despite crossing the line in first place none of the three GB winners was allowed to take the gold medal, with the prizes restricted to Slovenian nationals, and the British contingent earning themselves honorary medals for their efforts.
The local rowers were visiting Bled as part of the civic delegation from Henley, and were the only overseas entrants in the entire regatta. Double Olympic silver medallist Debbie Flood entered the women’s single sculls, while two of Shiplake’s junior internationals — Max Hearnden and Harry Vardigans — competed in the junior men’s pairs. Henry Blois-Brooke and Seb Newman joined forces in the J14 double sculls and the fifth Shiplake athlete in Bled was Ollie Potter in the J14 singles.
Despite not having competed internationally since her retirement from international rowing after the London Games, Flood put in a strong performance as she raced over the same 2,000m course on which she had helped qualify the GB women’s quad for the Olympics two years previously.
Flood led the four Slovenian scullers from start to finish, and was able to relax a little as she crossed the line clear of Anja Sesum, of the Maribor Club, who won the gold medal.
After their performance in the GB eight at the Coupe de la Jeunesse last month Hearnden and Vardigans were looking for another win in their event. But it was the Slovenian bronze medallists in last month’s junior world championships, Gaspar Ferling and Miha Ramsak, who proved stronger, pushing the Shiplake athletes back into second place.
Shiplake pride was restored in the next final where Blois-Brooke and Newman dominated their double sculls final to cross the line in first place, and the day’s racing finished with Ollie Potter in the J14 singles. The Shiplake sculler had started strongly in his morning heat but after a technical mishap caused him to capsize with 250m to run, he was sufficiently recovered from his ordeal to race in the B final, in which he finished third.
Medals were presented to the successful athletes by the Mayor of Henley, Stefan Gawrysiak, who paid tribute to their efforts. He said: “We are very hopeful that, after this promising start, more and more rowers from Henley will come to compete here in Bled as part of our twinning agreement.”