Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Golden year for GB rower who just loves a challenge

Golden year for GB rower who just loves a challenge

A FORMER Shiplake College student is having a year to remember following the success of his latest athletic challenge.

Henry Blois-Brooke, from Kiln Green, recently completed the Coast to Coast run from Cumbria to North Yorkshire, covering 192 miles in six days.

The 20-year-old, who is studying sports and exercise at Oxford Brookes University, competed at Henley Royal Regatta in July and won the Temple Challenge Cup.

He then flew to Florida to compete for Great Britain at the under-23 rowing world championships and won gold.

Henry, whose ambition is to row at an Olympics, said: “It is pretty amazing to look back and think about what I have achieved this year.

“I did trials throughout the year and then the final team was announced just after the regatta. Having won at the biggest regatta in the world to then be told you are part of the world championships is an incredible feeling.”

For the Coast to Coast event, Henry ran through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors before finishing at Robin Hood’s Bay.

Each night stayed in hotels and met up with his parents Mark, a pilot, and Amanda.

He said: “The terrain and weather were particularly bad at the Lake District. Everyone knows it is hilly but it really knackers your ankles.

“The weather was horrific; it was so windy. I was actually very scared at times. I was on my own and I could only see about 20 metres ahead of myself.

“You have no phone service and if anything goes wrong the first time your parents will find out is when you don’t come back in the evening.

“But the fear didn’t stop me. I had a map and a compass. I relied 100 per cent on those. It was probably a good thing that I started at the worst part. When I could see the finish line I felt much better.”

His parents were at the finish line to greet him with lots of doughnuts.

Henry, who is considering a career in the Royal Marines, raised nearly £3,000, which will be split between two charities, Help for Heroes and MyAware, a national organisation helping people with myasthenia, a rare neuromuscular condition that causes muscle weakness.

Henry’s uncle Vaughan Wade, 60, who lives in Coventry, was his inspiration as he was diagnosed with myasthenia 10 years ago but continues to take on daring challenges like his nephew.

Henry said: “Living with this condition is quite a big challenge for him.

“I would say he is probably one of my biggest role models. This run was nothing compared to what he has done. He has done ultra-marathons through the Kalahari Desert.

“Doctors have told him that he is supposed to rest and take it easy but he just wants to keep pushing himself. He is just completely refusing to give up. He is going to push it as far as he can until it stops him.

“When I was younger and he came over to visit it was like God had walked through the door. He would talk about all the challenges he had done and I was amazed listening to his stories.

“Thinking of my uncle and what he has been through was all the inspiration I needed.”

Despite his athletic prowess, Henry says he did not find sport easy as a child.

He said: “When I was younger I was on the bigger side and was not really fit. I don’t remember exactly how much I weighed but I was big for my age. Even going for a jog for 10 minutes was hard work.

“Something suddenly clicked and I just wanted to get healthy and stay that way. I started rowing and it changed my life.

“The more I exercised, the better I felt and I wanted to work harder because I enjoyed the feeling I got from staying healthy.”

His victory at the regatta had been three years in the making, having lost in the 2018 final of the Temple Challenge Cup against Washington University with Oxford Brookes University.

Before that, he competed with Shiplake College and reached the semi-finals of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup before being knocked out by Radley College.

His parents and 17-year-old sister Eleanor, who is now at Shiplake, went with him to Florida to see him compete and they enjoyed a holiday in Miami afterwards.

Henry said: “I am going to try and pursue rowing professionally if I can. I want to get into the GB senior team. Most people have said I am crazy by doing all these challenges but I actually enjoy it.”

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