Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Double celebration for mother of GB oarsman

A WOMAN is looking forward to seeing her son row at Henley Royal Regatta — just months after

A WOMAN is looking forward to seeing her son row at Henley Royal Regatta — just months after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Sally Satch, a rowing coach at Shiplake College, is the mother of Olympic bronze medallist Will Satch, who will be stroking the Leander/Molesey composite eight competing for the Grand Challenge Cup.

Mrs Satch, of Reading Road, Henley, was teaching at the college in March when she complained of deafness and dizziness. She had a brain scan which showed a 4cm tumour near the base of her brain. Although the tumour was benign, Mrs Satch needed an eight-hour operation to remove it followed by radiotherapy treatment, costing a total of £30,000.

She is not due to have another scan until December and so can enjoy her summer holidays, including this week’s regatta, where her daughter Jo Unsworth, 20, is a former winner.

She said: “I am euphoric — I am seriously grabbing every day. I am delighted because it has been horrible and it is the first time I have had to face my own mortality, which sounds dramatic but it is something you have to consider. Now I feel delighted and excited all the time.”



Mrs Satch said that before she was diagnosed teaching and coaching were becoming a problem because she couldn’t hear the boys.

“I saw a specialist who said it was probably fluid imbalance but he would do a scan,” she said. “It was then that they found the tumour.

“Telling people was very difficult because I told the people I love and then you have to watch their dismay. It’s really hard.

“I don’t have much family so I need my friends and they’ve been amazing, as have the kids.

“I wasn’t going to tell Will but he was waiting for me when I got home from the scan and I couldn’t lie to him.

“He has been an absolute rock because I know he was so scared. I didn’t want to tell Jo either because I didn’t want her driving over here from her home in Falmouth but Will said she should know.

“They were both upset but kept it together for me and they’ve been fantastic. You want to protect your children, you don’t want them to have to protect you.

“Will has been a superstar â??— he has driven me to appointments, spoken to surgeons, and I know how scared he’s been through it all.”

Mrs Satch found her surgeon while talking to a fellow coach at the Schools Head of the River race in March.

She said: “I was pretty gloomy and told my friend about needing a surgeon. He said he had coached a guy in 1997 for Cambridge Blues and gave me his number.

“From that I found my surgeon and I had the operation on March 30. When I woke up I thought it was an April Fools’ joke.”

Mrs Satch was given time off by the college, where both her children were taught.

She said: “I went to work the morning after the scan and told the head of department, who told me to go home and take the time I needed. The college has been outstanding - I couldn’t have asked for more support.

“Friends and colleagues pass by my house on their way to work and drop off soup and flowers. I also got some spinach from an anonymous person! The college is a proper family and I’m quite humbled.”

Mrs Satch, who grew up in Hurley, took up coaching four years after her own rowing career was ended by injury. A promising junior swimmer, she began rowing in the Nineties and raced for Slough.

She said: “My glory days were swimming. I swam the Channel when I was 13, the idea being to break the age record. About a month before I was due to swim, a girl aged 12 did it. I was annoyed but I had to honour it because you book your slot months in advance.

“Swimming was my main sport and I went in to rowing just because it’s also on water and because I was living here.

“I started skiffing at Wraysbury. The reason I initially chose to skiff rather than row was because when Will was a baby he could sit on the boat in his Moses basket. The first time he was out on the water he probably wasn’t even one year old.

“I was quite good at skiffing so I went on to rowing at Staines. I was going to do the Atlantic row in 1997 but I suffered a prolapsed disc and had to have surgery. That was the end for me.”

Mrs Satch said that after her injury she stayed away from rowing because it made her feel sad.

She said: “I’d had both the kids by then and they weren’t bothered by rowing. Will was seriously into his rugby.

“But when he was 11 he said ‘I think I might fancy rowing’. I was furious because I’d already sold all my old equipment!

“I took him to Upper Thames but they couldn’t accept him because their Project Oarsome junior programme was affiliated to Gillotts School at that time.

“They said they would only take him if I came to help them out and do some coaching and that was it, I was back into rowing.

“At about the same time I was asked by the headteacher Nick Bevan to help out at Shiplake College, coaching a couple of afternoons a week.

“Will had been having a difficult time at his previous school so he came to the college on a scholarship and played rugby. By the time he joined he was already quite good at rowing and they won the Schools Head that year.”

Mrs Satch joined the college as a rowing coach and now also teaches design technology.

She said: “We are doing really well at Shiplake now. We won the Child Beale Cup at the National Schools Regatta in May and the 16s also got a silver. The girls’ rowing is also getting up and at it now.

“Watching how they develop is lovely. You see kids in year nine who started rowing in January and had never picked up a blade and by May they are racing in national competitions.

“You can see the day the boys get hooked. I don’t know if they know how lucky they are but they will do one day.”

It was during a coaching session at the college that Jo, then just six, first tried rowing.

Mrs Satch said: “When she was a little girl she would have to come with me to the college. She always told me she wanted a go and I said she was too small.

“I remember the day she came along with her hair in plaits and I let her out in a single. She was so small that she couldn’t fall out and she loved it.”

In 2012, Jo was in the crew that won the inaugural junior women’s quadruple sculls at Henley and Mrs Satch watched the race from the bank.

She said: “It was outstanding to watch. It was the first year the female quad was allowed to compete at Henley and they were underdogs as Canford School had beaten them all year.

“In the final it was Canford again and we all thought, ‘oh no’ but Henley beat them. It was so exciting.

“Off the back of that Jo was offered a scholarship to Miami but by that time she had just gone off rowing. She did Ironman triathlons and marathons in London and Zurich. Now she is surfing and lives in Falmouth.”

Jo’s triumph came just a month before 26-year-old Will won his bronze medal in the coxless pairs with George Nash at London 2012.

Mrs Satch travelled to Dorney Lake to watch the race in which the duo recorded a time of six minutes and 21 seconds on the 2,200m course.

She said: “It was fabulous and I still can’t believe it. Will was told to train for Rio 2016 and we only found out six weeks before London that he had been selected.

“The idea was just to make the final but they went out and won a medal!”

Now she is hoping that her boy will do well at the regatta.

Mrs Satch said: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful? Of course he’s nervous but he is also very excited. It would be marvellous if he won.”



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