Chester Royal Rowing Club invests in youth (with audio)
Youngsters sampled rowing on the Dee at the UK's oldest club <br/>PhotographY by Kirsty Thompson
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Scores of children had the chance to follow in the wake of Olympic hero Steve Redgrave. The doors were thrown open at the UK’s oldest rowing club, the invest, to allow youngsters to sample the sport during the summer holidays.
Last year 88 children from across the city attended the summer school and 25 of them are now members of the club.
‘The summer school we hold every year gives school children the opportunity to try their hand at rowing,’ said Michael Palamarczuk, the club chairman.
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‘Years ago rowing was seen as an exclusive sport - the club was entirely made up of men and the whole sport seemed impenetrable to many people. That has all changed now - we have about 270 members now and about half of them are women and girls.’
The club - which was founded in 1838 - has consistently produced rowers who have competed successfully at national and international standard and they currently have two teenagers training with the Great Britain squad.
Rowing has accounted for a large percentage of the British medal haul at previous Olympics and Becca Chin, 18, and 17-year-old Emma Spruce are hoping to be on the podium at the 2012 Games.
But the club is also aiming for glory at Henley next year with two teams of near novices. ‘We are recruiting budding athletes who want to get to the highest level,’ Michael added.
‘Henley 2011 is the target - we want to take a team of people from being beginners to rowing at Henley within a year. Steve Redgrave did something similar a few years ago with young people from Liverpool.’Members - whose ages range from 12 to over 80 - regularly compete around the world and alongside the developments on the water, there are plans to improve things on dry land, too.
The club’s boat house was built in 1877, with the neighbouring club house added almost 100 years later. But plans are now being drawn up to develop the site to create a rowing centre of excellence. That could mean transforming their base to add more boat storage area and a new gym and bar, or it could mean moving up river.