Young rowers target Tokyo as Project Rio gets underway

Successful duo Alex Rankin, left, and India Somerside. Picture: Elspeth Burnside
Successful duo Alex Rankin, left, and India Somerside. Picture: Elspeth Burnside
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Rowing is one of Team GB’s most successful Olympic sports and the Scottish governing body is hoping to make the most of this year’s Games in Rio and encourage young and old to get out on the water.

At a launch last week, 19 Scottish rowing clubs signed up to Project Rio – a concerted effort to get ready for a surge of interest around this summer’s extravaganza in Brazil.

Included on the list is the Glasgow Schools’ Rowing Club – which has established itself as the most successful junior club in Britain.

A number of schools – Glasgow Academy, High School of Glasgow, Kelvinside Academy, Hutchesons’ Grammar School, Hillhead High School, Boclair Academy, Mearns Castle High School, Clydebank High School and Williamwood High School – all work with the club. There are also a number of individual members.

The club has produced two current world champions – Glasgow Academy sixth year pupil, Josh Armstrong, and Gavin Horsburgh, who was at Gryffe High School before spending his sixth year at 
Glasgow Academy. He is now at Heriot-Watt University.

Also among the current crop are another two Glasgow Academy pupils who are ranked the No 1 juniors in the world, Alex Rankin and India Somerside.

Their aim is to make it to the World Championships in 
Rotterdam at the end of August. The final trials are in July.

At the weekend, India and Alex underlined their class by winning the junior women’s fours at the Munich Junior International – Josh finished fourth in the men’s junior quads, the event he won at last year’s Junior World 

Iain Somerside, India’s Dad, is the head coach at the club, and rightly proud of its achievements. “The club was founded in 1942, but then folded,” he explained. “It was resurrected four or five years ago. We work with several schools – starting in first year – but anyone is 
welcome anytime.

“We train outdoors at Glasgow Green and at Strathclyde Park and we also do a lot of work based at Glasgow Academy. The school has a great indoor rowing facility.”

Somerside welcomes the introduction of Project Rio. “Hopefully, it is going to generate a lot of interest in addition to what we are already doing,” he said.

“There is always an extra buzz in Olympic year and Project Rio should help to capitalise on it. For our top youngsters, the aim is to qualify for Tokyo 2020.”

The London 2012 Games had a dramatic effect on rowing in Scotland. Clubs throughout the country reported being “inundated” with newcomers. Some, such as Stirling and Castle Semple Rowing Clubs, have just worked through the waiting list generated by the Games four years ago

This time around, rowing clubs will be better 
prepared and, through 
Scottish Rowing’s Project Rio, they will have better resources and support than ever before.

So far, 19 of Scottish Rowing’s 28 clubs have signed up to the Project Rio campaign, and Gavin Horsburgh and 2014 Commonwealth Regatta gold medallist Emma 
McDonald helped mark the launch with a session at Strathclyde Park introducing Senior 1-3 pupils from Dalziel High School, Motherwell, to the sport.

Funded by Awards for All, Project Rio will support clubs with coaching and marketing resources and feature a trio of special events:

l National Come and Try Week (18-26 June) A Scotland wide event in which Scottish Rowing will encourage people to head along to their local club to try the sport;

lLearn2Row (27 June-24 September) Scottish Rowing will provide clubs with easy to use session plans, which will instruct and support club members on how to run safe, effective and fun sessions. The Project Rio Learn2Row Courses come with limited edition awards for participants to earn over the six sessions.

l Rio Regatta (24 September) A fun-filled festival of rowing and conclusion to Project Rio at Strathclyde Park

Aberdeen Schools and George Heriot’s join Glasgow as the other school clubs that have also signed up to Project Rio.