NOVICE rower Vicky Thornley sprung a major shock at the Henley Women’s Regatta when she won the single sculls, writes ALEC DOYLE.
The 20-year-old from Holt took up the sport only last autumn but stormed to an ‘easy finish’ – the term used when a rower wins by more than five lengths – against the largely more experienced Anne Claffey from University College Dublin.
“I had seen her heats and I knew that she would just keep herself in the race and sprint the last 250m to win every time,” said Vicky.
“So I knew I had to impose myself early. The weather conditions were terrible for rowing, there was a difficult headwind, but I got off strong and opened up a big gap which she could not recover from.
“Before the championships I expected to place as I had finished third and fourth in two races at the Metropolitan Championships earlier in the season. But to win was a surprise.”
Victoria, a former British international showjumper, was discovered through the Sporting Giants programme which identified tall people who may excel at specific Olympic sports, among them rowing
The 6ft 3in athlete was about to begin university in London after a year out modelling, but turned her back on her course to move to Bath and dedicate herself to becoming an elite rower.
She moved onto the Amateur Rowing Association’s World Class Start programme and is now training with Minerva Bath Rowing Club up to three times a day. Ten months after she began to learn how to row, having never attempted the sport before, she has one top title and is hungry for more.
She will compete in the National Championships in Nottingham on July 18, 19 and 20, the last major domestic competition of the season.
“I will be competing in a pair and a quad at the nationals and hopefully we can do well,” said Vicky.
And despite the initial hype which surrounded Sporting Giants and its aims to unearth talent for London 2012, Vicky is keeping her focus on the short-term future.
“I have settled in Bath, living with two other rowers and although the training is hard I am enjoying it,” she said. “My target really now is to get into the British under 23 squad. If I do well at the October trials in Boston I will be invited to the December trials and if I perform there I will get an invite to the February trials.
“Talk of the Olympics is premature. I am taking things one step at a time.”
Vicky is on the lookout for potential sponsors to help with the cost of being a full-time rower. If you would like to sponsor her, contact 01978 664202.