Ellen Buttrick |

‘Through Love Rowing we can reach so many individuals who – like myself – may never have heard of rowing and help them to benefit from the sport’

GB Para rower Ellen Buttrick is a trustee for Love Rowing, British Rowing’s charitable foundation to help more people try out rowing. She explains why taking part in The Big Row is so important

In 2012, I joined Leeds Rowing Club because, by chance, I had seen The Boat Race on the television one weekend. As a young person who was aiming to be the first in my family to attend university, I believed that being able to row meant that you could also get into a good school.

I had always been keen to try out every extracurricular activity that I could, and luckily, when I eventually sat in a boat after being on the learn to row waiting list for a year, I found that I picked up the technique and built up my fitness quickly, before I left to study Geography and row at Northumbria University.

When I was diagnosed with a sight impairment aged 19, one of my first responses was “Does this mean that I can row in the Paralympics?”. I had been part of the sport for two years prior to this event and I feel very grateful now that I had rowing to focus on during, what could have been, one of the hardest periods of my life.

With less than 100 days to go to the Paralympic Games almost every aspect of my life is dedicated to this sport that completely changed my life

As I began to lose my eyesight, it was rowing that was the activity that remained unimpacted by this sudden change. Unless I was steering a boat or in a single scull, I didn’t need to be able to see in order to row – which wasn’t really the case for any other aspect of my life. Taking the bus down to the rowing club and getting out on the River Tyne allowed me to maintain some normality in my new day-to-day life.

Fast-forward seven years to 2021 and I am a full-time member of Great Britain’s Para-rowing squad aiming to represent Paralympics GB in Tokyo this summer.

With less than 100 days to go to the Paralympic Games almost every aspect of my life is dedicated to this sport that completely changed my life.

When I was first introduced to rowing in 2012, I entered a community that continues to inspire, support and teach me, even nine years on.

This year I joined the trustee board of Love Rowing with the hope that every person in the UK can have the opportunity to benefit from being a member of the rowing community, as I have done.

There are many brilliant rowing projects dotted around the country and our ambition at Love Rowing is that we can support the delivery of these types of programmes nationwide.

In order to do this, though, firstly we need to fund raise.

Love Rowing was set up by British Rowing in 2019 and then 2020 happened, so you may not have heard much from us. Now as the country reopens, we are inviting the rowing community to join together and to take part in The Big Row.

The Big Row is an event where clubs can row the distance from London to Tokyo (9,565km) between 28 June and the 4 July in celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer. It is our ambition that The Big Row becomes a highlight on every club’s racing calendar, drawing people into our sport and raising funds that we can then redistribute back into the rowing community.

I really believe that through Love Rowing we can reach so many individuals who – like myself – may never have even heard of the sport of rowing before and help them to benefit from being out in a boat or sitting on a rowing machine.

Please share The Big Row with your club and hopefully we can all join together for a celebration of rowing while raising money for Love Rowing.

Find out more about The Big Row and sign up here.

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