A few months ago, Ruth Gorse student and RowLeeds record holder, Daisy Anderson set a age group national record on the rowing machine. Here she talks about getting into rowing, having fun at the Indoor Champs and finding out how good she might be. Now she's on the GB Rowing Team World Class Start programme. All this is just over a year and a half.
The RowLeeds Indoor Championships
How did you get into rowing and how long have you been doing it for?
I started half way through Year 7, so just under two years ago. It looked good fun – so I thought I’d give it a go. It turned out that I enjoyed it and was quite good, so I’ve stuck with it! I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet new friends.
Had you played any other sports before?
In primary school, I played tennis quite a lot but it was for a bit of fun and to be social. I tried volleyball but it wasn’t for me. Rowing is very unique, you get to visit lots of different places. I’ve raced in Nottingham, London, at Dorney Lake where they held the Olympics, and I’m going to London again next month to compete at BRIC (British Rowing Indoor Championships). It’s great that I get to do lots of travelling and see different parts of Britain.
What did you like about rowing that made you start taking it more seriously?
I just really enjoyed going to races - going with all my friends. You normally only have about two races in a day, so you have the rest of the time to do other things. Also, when I’m in a competition I always do a lot better when I have all the pressure and everyone is shouting at me to go faster. I think I got 50 extra metres at BRIC than I did in school.
What does your school offer in terms of rowing?
I started on the ergo in PE. The teacher thought I was good, so I was invited to come along to the Thursday extra-curricular sessions. After a bit of training, my technique and fitness improved and the coach asked me if I wanted to start going down to the boathouse on the water. I really wanted to because I knew it would be a great opportunity to improve my technique and start racing in regattas.
When did you start rowing on the water and how is it different to the rowing machine?
I’ve been training on the water for about a year now. It’s quite a lot different to on the machine. On the ergo you feel quite stable, but in the boat, you’re surrounded by water and there’s a risk of falling in, so it’s a little bit scary at first. Mainly, I love the freedom of being on the river, surrounded by nature; you can row for miles. You start in the city but pretty soon, you’re in the countryside. The only thing is you have to keep looking over your shoulder because you’re going backwards and you don’t want to crash! I like it best in summer because it’s warmer, but winter can be cold. There’s times when I don’t feel like going – because it’s cold, wet or windy - but once you’re down there with your friends and warmed up it’s fine.
When did you realise you might have talent in the sport?
I didn’t realise I had a talent until I started winning! I seemed to be the best in my year and then at the RowLeeds Indoor Championships I won gold there and set a record - so it was surprising - but a nice surprise. It’s easier to enjoy something when you have success too.
You’ve just set a national record over 1000m on the rowing machine for your age. How did that feel?
It felt really good! I managed to beat the record by 40 seconds so that was quite a lo!. It just made me feel really happy that I could achieve something in a sport I really like. That record was set on slides, which is a bit weird because it means the whole machine moves underneath you and you need to get your timing right. It does mean it’s easier to keep a higher stroke rate though and you can go quite a lot faster.
The GB World Class Start programme looks for people who have the potential to do well and then tries to turn them into Olympic rowers. You got selected for Yorkshire-based GB Start squad. How did that happen and what does it involve?
I was at the RowLeeds Indoor Championshps and me and my sister both got talent spotted. We did some strength testing and they measured our height and arm span. A couple of weeks later we got invited to test on the Schwinn Bike to look at our stamina. That one was really tough. Now I go training with the GB Start coach on Thursdays after school. He tries to improve our technique when we are with him. We have a few other things to do on our own. We have proper warm up exercises and I do 3 x 500m once a week at different stroke rates. I’m too young to do lots of long sessions so we’re just getting the basics right and trying to make me stronger and improve my skills. The two most important things my coach wants is for me have a really straight back and to drive hard so we lift our bum off the seat when we push with our legs.
The RowLeeds Indoor Champs is coming up in December. Tell us about that event.
I really like going to RowLeeds because you spend a couple of hours messing around with your friends and then you do your race. It’s really nice to hear all your friends and your teachers shouting at you to make you go faster. I like shouting at everyone else too. What really helps is the loud music and the atmosphere. It adds to the excitement and the adrenalin. It’s a great event. I’ve got the Year 8 record so I want to try and get the Year 9 record this year. Fingers crossed I do.
What are your other plans for this year?
I’m looking to get a lot stronger so I can get