Ripple effect of Grainger’s gold as clubs see a surge in new rowers

Gold medallist Katherine Grainger

Gold medallist Katherine Grainger

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SHE is already the poster girl for Scottish rowing.

And now it seems that Katherine Grainger’s incredible success is inspiring a new generation to take to the water.

Since Grainger claimed gold in the Women’s Coxless Pairs at London 2012, the numbers of people picking up an oar for the first time and taking to the Union Canal in Edinburgh have soared. At the Capital’s historic St Andrew Boat Club, of which Grainger is a member, they have been forced to run boats “back to back” to keep up with demand.

Overall, the Olympics effect has led to more than 1000 people across the country signing up for learn-to-row courses in the last two months.

Grainger, 36, who first took up rowing in 1993 when she studied law at Edinburgh University, said she was thrilled.

“I’d never have dreamed that winning a gold medal would have had such an impact, but it’s a brilliant feeling knowing that it has.

“It’s the icing on the cake to what has been a fantastic year. To think a whole new generation of rowers have started as a result of the Olympics is incredible.”

Glasgow-born Grainger eventually became president of the Edinburgh University Boat Club, and its 
current president said there had been “massive demand” since the Olympics.

Andrew Crowe, 21, who studies Applied Sport Science, said: “At this year’s Freshers’ Fair there was wave upon wave of people at our table signing up – we had over 500 in two days, 300 of which were women.

“Numbers always tend to drop off a bit once classes start, but they seem to have settled now and we have 150 new people consistently rowing with us, pretty evenly split between men and women.

“Usually we would have about 50, so it has taken a bit of organising.”

Amanda Cobb, rowing development manager at Scottish Rowing, said they had been stunned by the Olympics effect.

“We’ve never seen anything like this. At St Andrew Boat Club there have been so many people wanting to learn to row since Katherine won her gold medal that the courses are filling up just as soon as they’re announced.

“They’re running back to back just to keep up with the demand. It’s likely they’ll still be getting fully booked well into the new year.”

Row of honour for women

Rowing has been an Olympic sport since the first modern games took place in Athens in 1896 – but it wasn’t until the 1976 Montreal Games that women were allowed to compete.

However, women have been allowed to compete in the Oxford and Cambridge boat races since 1927. But not everyone has moved so quickly. The Leander Club in Berkshire, one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world, only agreed to admit women in 1997 when they were told they would receive no funding from the UK Sport’s Council without open membership.