Sporting history was made in New Zealand this weekend, where Helen Glover from Cornwall, whose talent for rowing was discovered just three years ago via the UK Sport and English Institute of Sport talent recruitment drive ‘Sporting Giants’, won silver in the women’s pair with Heather Stanning at the Rowing World Championships.
Spearheaded by Sir Steve Redgrave, Great Britain’s most successful Olympian of all time, in 2007, the talent identification programme set out to awaken potential sleeping giants of British sport. In the first appeal of its kind, UK Sport asked potential athletes to make themselves known – providing they fulfilled the basic criteria of being tall (a minimum of 6’3” or 190cm for men and 5’11” or 180cm for women), young (between 16 and 25), and with some sort of athletic background.
The response was overwhelming and when the registration period closed the project leaders had around 4,800 applications to sift through – with just under 4,000 applications meeting all the basic criteria. Glover, who had never set foot in a rowing boat before and was making her senior World Championships debut in New Zealand, was one of the 4000, and following a rigorous talent assessment and confirmation period, was selected to join the GB Rowing Team’s World Class Start programme. And the rest is now history, as she has become the first of these athletes to win a senior World Championships medal.
Chelsea Warr, UK Sport’s Head of Athlete Development, and the mastermind of the ‘Sporting Giants’ programme, commented today from Scotland, where UK Sport’s World Class Performance Conference gets underway tomorrow: “Helen’s achievement today shows the benefits of taking a proactive approach to identifying exceptionally talented athletes. Helen was an all-round athlete who had shown promise in several different sports, but never realised her true potential until she tried rowing. Congratulations to Helen and the team at GB Rowing, who have provided her with the world class coaching and support to accelerate her development towards this incredible accomplishment.
“Running projects like ‘Sporting Giants’ has taught us a huge amount about the identification and development of talented athletes, and this intelligence is helping us to develop sustainable elite athlete talent pathways for the UK high performance system, which will be a key legacy of hosting the London 2012 Games.”
Another of the ‘Sporting Giants’ was in action in the women’s eight today, who finished fourth. Show-jumper turned rower Victoria Thornley was also making her senior World Championships debut, having been crowned World Under-23 Champion as part of the women’s eight in 2009.
Earlier this week, Kate Jones, who was identified just a year ago via the Talent 2012: Paralympic Potential campaign, also won silver in the Adaptive Rowing World Championships as a member of the Great Britain mixed coxed four.
The Rowing World Championships concluded today with the GB Rowing Team on top of the medal table and with their best results of all time.