Former Breaking Barriers student captures BBC audience on Boat Race Day

Ashley Ntumba was part of London Youth Rowing's Breaking Barriers pilot programme. Since moving school, she's continued to pursue rowing and was chosen to talk about her experiences by the BBC during The Boat Races 2018. Read her rowing story. 

On the 24TH of March I was granted with the opportunity of being selected to be interviewed by the BBC Sport to talk on the topic of my experience of Rowing and my views on the sport as a whole. This was a golden moment for me as I was selected out of my whole school and borough (Hammersmith and Fulham) to do so, but also brought on pressure and responsibility, as it meant that I had to make sure that I represented them well! At first I felt overwhelmed by the thought of speaking live on TV as if I show my nerves, everyone who is watching will see! But this was overcome by me reminding myself of the reason I was doing this in the first place (to impact young viewers watching ‘The Boat Race’ to try and take on the sport of rowing) then immediately all my nerves went away.

It was also an honour to not just represent my school, but to also be part of a new programme ‘The Future Blues’ a campaign that aspires to inspire the next generation of state-school rowers, to get more individuals from state schools to take part in the sport, to bring diversity and to challenge the stereotype that ‘rowing is just for white upper-class individuals’. The programme not only aims to improve access of rowing within state schools but also to flourish skills that will be very important in life, such as discipline – academic and sporting. Unfortunately the programme didn’t exist at the time I started rowing.

But, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be introduced into the sport in my previous secondary school (Brampton Manor Academy) through London youth rowing through a scheme called ‘Breaking Barriers’. Breaking Barriers was a programme that aimed to help students in Newham, Islington, Tower Hamlets and Southwark who see rowing as a pathway to achieving their goals. The programme enabled me to recognise the soft skills that were required of me in order to be a successful rower such as time management and teamwork. Breaking Barriers programme was not just beneficial in terms of physical fitness but was also successful in broadening my aspirations as it was linked us students with corporate mentors at Pwc, to undergo workshops.

Above: Ashley taking part in Breaking Barriers classroom session

As well as the Breaking Barriers programme , I had the privilege of being able to be coached by a former Rower Hannah Vines at my secondary school and was able to witness the birth of the first ever boat club at by school! Hannah Vines was a very important part of my journey as an athlete, as she consistently pushed me to go past my limit physically and also ensured that I was on top of my academic studies. She also opened the door of endless opportunities for me, such as allowing me to be able to row in a single boat for the first time, rowing on the Thames for the first time, competing at NJIRC, London youth games, speaking at the Breaking Barriers launch in front of around 100 people in the ArcelorMittal Orbit and many more! I am ever grateful for her as she had a great influence on who am today – a passionate rower. 

After my interview I also got to watch Oxford and Cambridge university boats pace down the Thames from the rooftop balcony at Auriel Kensington boat club which had a tremendous view. Being part of the boat race was a day to remember! The competitive atmosphere was surrounded by rowing supporters shouting ‘Go Cambridge! Go Oxford!’ I also got to see the beautiful Gloriana Barge row by with its gold paint shimmering from a mile away, for the third time. It was wonderful and astonishing watching the boat race as it made me think that one day I could be in the same position as those athletes, taking part in a boat race watched by thousands of people. Regarding the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, I believe that Cambridge were the better boat club! However I believe that oxford did do well, but could’ve pushed harder to catch up to Cambridge’s boat as they were in the lead for most of the race. Despite the results, I believe that both boat clubs are amazing!

I would like to end this article by stating that these are only a snippet of many of the rowing experiences I’ve had, and I am hugely excited for the future!

Rowing has impacted my life in a variety of ways. It has taught me how to enjoy hard moments in life, as Rowing is an extremely hard sport however, it is my choice whether I am going to use the fact that its’ hard to give up or continue to thrive until I’m at the place I want to be at and BEYOND. The second decision is the one I decided to choose, as the saying ‘there’s no gain without pain’ taught me. Rowing has impacted my life now in the sense that I desire for many other people to gain the same experiences and more than I’ve had because now I know how such a sport can change someone’s mind-set long term.

I will be starting my gap year this September and hope to do some coaching work experience, alongside my internship and also continue rowing with Fulham Reach Boat club.