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Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne aiming for future with GB rowing squad
10:00am Thursday 30th August 2012 in Sport
TEENAGE Herefordshire rower Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne has enjoyed a sensational rise in her first year in the sport.
The 17-year-old from St Weonards has followed Helen Glover and Heather Stanning all year as well as the career of newly-crowned Olympian gold-medallist, Katherine Grainger and says all three are a source of an inspiration.
“In terms of inspiration, it has to be Katherine Grainger because she never gives up and the amount of effort she puts into training,” said Hodgkins-Byrne.
“I’ve also followed Helen Glover and Heather Stanning because they’ve gone from reserves for the women’s eight to gold in such a remarkable space of time.”
With Hodgkins-Byrne’s case especially, it is amazing how much success she has achieved in such a short period.
Having only started rowing last year, her progress has been nothing short of sensational.
However it was just a case of chance that her opportunity came about.
“I think it was the fact I was never going to be the fastest runner or the best at athletics,” she said. “So I decided to try rowing.
“The coach, John Griffiths, saw me and realised I was quite tall.
“In my first training session, I managed to beat the girls who had been doing rowing for the last two years so that kind of got me into it.”
After her first trial in October of last year, the teenager then went to the GB final trials where she finished eighth, earning her qualification to the European Junior Championships in Barcelona where she was selected to represent Great Britain in the quadruple scull.
Her crew made the ‘A’ final but steering problems resulted in a sixth-place finish.
However, they made amends in the following race with a much stronger performance, finishing fourth.
Despite the disappointment that came with the failure to secure a medal, Hodgkins-Byrne said they took a lot out of the event while also finding the whole tournament interesting.
“I was never going to be the fastest runner or the best at athletics, so I decided to try rowing.”
“The Coupe de Jeunesse was brilliant,” she said.
“It was really interesting when we got there. We got the briefings by the team managers and were immediately told what we could and couldn’t do.
“Our team was pretty much the second-team while Spain and Italy put their first teams out against us.
“That was their trial for the world championships.
“We didn’t really stand a chance but the fact we were so close to them really gave us a boost.
“They had been training for months while we only had two weeks training to prepare because of the timing of the Olympics.
“The experience of the whole thing throughout was amazing.
“I was privileged and proud to do it and to represent my country.”
Despite her early progress and success in rowing, the 17-year-old admits it has been a struggle combining her training with academic studies.
“I train six or seven timeseach week and it has been hard juggling it with my academic studies,” added Mathilda.
“I would finish a school day and then head down the rowing club where I would do an hour’s training.
“And then, because of the intensity of the training, I wouldn’t be able to do much else that evening simply because I was too physically and mentally tired.
Balancing that has been incredibly tough.
“I sort of decided that, at the end of the day, I wanted to come out of this year with GB Selection rather than maybe my four As at AS.
“I can retake the ASs but can’t retake the rowing because I’m too old now for junior level.”
With the Hereford Cathedral School student now finishing at junior level, she had planned to take a year out and return to rowing next summer at the Henley Royal and Home Countries tournaments before entering the u23s category.
But now a new opportunity has beckoned in her bid to get to the top.
She is being tested for the GB Start programme to identify and train athletes with Olympic potential.