European silver medallist Lucy Glover (pictured above right) learned to row at Warrington Rowing Club. Rosie Oates from Junior Rowing News finds out about her junior days
If anybody ever overlooked Warrington Rowing Club, a club nestled on the banks of the River Mersey, they’ll think twice after watching former junior Lucy Glover’s silver-medal-winning exploits at the European Championships a few weeks ago. As her old coach from Warrington, Richard Sinnott, sums up: “not bad for a girl from the Mersey!”.
And it was with Richard that she first got the taste for winning. Starting out as a junior at Warrington, which she found through an Oarsport-run programme that connected her school with the local rowing club, her abilities were quickly identified by the team of dedicated volunteer coaches.
The leafy six-kilometer section of the Mersey that Warrington have made home meant she had a long stretch upon which to learn and hone her skills, and, as so often happens in grassroots sport, her first memories of winning were amongst friends.
“Despite not having a fancy boathouse and facilities we still had the grit, focus and had fun. We just made the boats go fast,” she explains, when sitting down with me a few days after her exploits in Varese. That much is certainly true; her junior career is the stuff of legend, the crowning highlight coming on the dappled waters of Dorney Lake as a winner of championship girls’ quads at the National Schools’ Regatta.
“It was amazing to have some of my best mates with me, people I had grown up with at the rowing club, and to beat other successful junior athletes to get that win,” she says.
At 15, Lucy competed at her first Coupe de la Jeunesse, where she really ‘got a taste for racing’ with the help of her coaches and parents.
“It was a boat on the roof of the car for trials kind of situation – my parents were really great with that kind of thing.”
Maybe the result that sums her up the best is one of her ventures at Henley Women’s Regatta, as captured by Richard.
He says: “She went down as a J16 to see if she would get out of qualifications and into the event proper. She won the final by a foot, winning on the very last stroke.”
As for many rowers, the transition from club and junior success to university programmes is a difficult one and choosing where you want to spend at least three years is often just as hard. For Lucy, Edinburgh was an obvious choice.
“I wanted to be somewhere I could get a good degree and also be a part of one of the most successful programmes in the country.”
Lucy also praised the university sports department for the supportive mentality it had whilst we discussed the challenges that come with being both a full-time student and athlete. “The two are very different things,” she explained. “The balance is hard to strike, but being surrounded by a strong team and a good group of people makes the transition easier.”
“You’ll meet friends you’ll have forever and coaches that will shape the direction your life will take”
When asked about her time so far as a rower on the Great Britain squad, the first thing Lucy mentioned was how great it was ‘to be brushing shoulders with the best athletes in the country’ – a classic understatement given she would fall squarely into that category herself.
COVID-19 has naturally overshadowed much of the last year, but returning to her ergo-in-the-garage roots didn’t faze her; she highlighted that the opportunity to get back out in the single at Warrington was a great chance to give something back to the club which had given her so much.
If the pre-race training circumstances seem unconventional, the story of Lucy’s silver at Europeans is just as unbelievable. Her crew had only been together for two weeks prior to Varese and she told us that they come into the race with no expectations.
“As we’re going into the first race, we had no idea how to pitch it, but it meant there was no pressure, and no expectation,” she said. “We were still holding ourselves to a high standard though and had a really simple clear race plan”.
Whatever that blueprint was, it worked. They stormed through the heats to secure a brilliant silver medal and set up what looks to be an intriguing season ahead. Despite that performance, Lucy believes that the Europeans were a learning curve; she talked me through the mentality around how much the crew have tried to build on the result after returning to the UK, using the time to try out different boat combinations and finding the best way to make every stroke better than the last.
Curious, I asked her what she would tell her younger self, the girl who started rowing at Warrington with no idea where the journey down the Mersey would take her.
“I would say enjoy it and make the most of it,” she smiles. “You’ll meet friends you’ll have forever and coaches that will shape the direction your life will take – so just appreciate every moment of it”.