EMERGING rowing starlet Alex Churchill has set her sights on a place in Great Britain's squad for the 2012 Olympics.
The 14-year-old Ellesmere Port Catholic High School pupil is aiming for the top after clinching a national title earlier this month.
She was a member of the Royal Chester Rowing Club's junior women's crew that triumphed in the National Junior Sculls Head at Eton, finishing almost three seconds clear of Bedford High School.
Alex was introduced to rowing by her dad, Anthony, and her long-term goal is to win a place on the Great Britain team for the London Olympics.
She said: 'My dad had been rowing for years and I started as a cox. I occasionally stood in for senior ladies when they were short for a race and that is where I developed a love for rowing.
'As a cox there is only so far you can go and no fitness involved, but rowing keeps me fit and I am hoping to perform well enough to be selected for the Olympics in five years.'
Alex races in an octuple scull, which features eight rowers with two oars each and a cox.
The talented teenager sits in the stroke position, facing the cox, which means she dictates the pace of the crew.
'I have to have good regular timing so the crew can find the pace and stick to it,' she said. 'It is a team effort and everyone plays their part. We see each other so much it is like family.'
Alex, of Great Sutton, is showing plenty of promise. She moved from Grosvenor Rowing Club in Chester to the Royals a year ago as there was no junior team at Grosvenor.
As well as winning this year's national title, the Royals girls also triumphed in Saturday's North of England Head of the River Race on the River Dee.
Alex said: 'Fitness is key. We train five days a week in the gym and on rowing machines. If we take time off, our rhythm goes and we feel the pain, so we have to keep going. It is similar for swimmers. Few people train as hard as rowers.'
The next big challenge for Alex and the Royals is the Henley Schools Regatta in May.
She added: 'That is what we are geared up for. All our training and the smaller club events are with that in mind because we want to bring something back from Henley.'