Rowing basks in Olympic glory in its spiritual home

Banbury Cake: A coxless four during an early morning training session at Abingdon Buy this photo » A coxless four during an early morning training session at Abingdon

OF ALL the Olympic sports, rowing could call Oxfordshire its spiritual home.

London 2012 gold medallist Andy Triggs Hodge, silver medal-winning brothers Richard and Peter Chambers and cox Caroline O’Connor call the county home.

Henley’s Leander Club members have won more Olympic and World Championship medals than any other club worldwide.

Members have included heroes Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell.

And there is no shortage of other clubs, including City of Oxford and Falcon in the city, plus Abingdon and Wallingford.

Abingdon club member Andrew Troup, 55, said: “Unquestionably, it is more physiologically demanding than other sport.”

The Bampton resident said: “You are using more muscle groups in rowing than you are with most other sports. If you rode on an exercise bike and tried to lift weights at the same time you would get the idea.”

He said: “There is obviously a degree of masochism – most rowers are slightly mad.

“But if you get down there in the morning and the river looks like glass and the sun is coming up, that is an unbeatable experience.”

Abingdon Rowing Club – which has 134 members – saw a boost in interest following the games, where Team GB took four gold, two silver and three bronze medals.

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It has just been awarded a £50,000 Sport England grant which will go towards improving its facilities.

Mr Troup, who works in renewable energy, said: “People will look from outside and ask ‘how do you see any pleasure in going back and forth on a river?’ “But it is different every time – different current, the seasons change and there is a constant steering battle.”

Rowers can continue into their 70s as the sport puts less strain on the joints than events like athletics. He said: “When I row with a veteran crew, with an average age between 50 and 55, we have been beaten by a crew with an average age 10 years older.

“At Henley Regatta as well you see 75-year-olds.

“Some of them can hardly get the boat off the rack into the water but when they get in the water they’re away.”

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