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Former NJIRC competitor turned international athlete

Katie Bartlett started rowing at the age of 13 after being scouted by British Rowing’s, World Class Start programme. She was a national level junior swimmer before she took to the water at Nottingham Rowing Club. She soon found that she was as fast on the water as she was in it, and began pulling in medals at local and national events.

Above: Katie at the 2014 U23 World Rowing Championships

In 2008 and 2009, she got silver medals in the individual event and won the relay races with her team, at the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships (NJIRC).

NJIRC was just two years old and hosted in Battersea Park, not yet big enough to bring Lee Valley Athletics Centre to capacity.

The prizes for winning the relays however, were still the same, and she got to ride in the launches that followed The Boat Race in consecutive years.

She’d officially caught the ‘rowing bug’ and began taking her training more seriously, with the intention of representing her country at junior level.

Her list of accomplishments is impressive. Representing Great Britain, Katie has won two silvers and one bronze medal at the Coupe de la Jeunesse regatta, raced at the Junior World Rowing Championships and won a silver and a bronze medal in two separate Under 23 World Rowing Championships.

‘NJIRC gave me the first real taste of what proper racing was all about. It was nerve-wracking and loud and exhausting,’ Katie said. ‘But the rush you get when you stand on the podium, and the fun I got out of rowing when I was young made the tough races worth it.’

Katie graduated with a degree in Sport Science from Loughborough University and shortly after, moved closer to London to row at Molesey Boat Club where she continues to train and race while working part time. But, it wasn’t all smooth sailing post-university life. For the first time she truly began to question whether she wanted to retire from her beloved sport and start to focus on her career.

Katie said: ‘I’m shorter than a lot of my rowing teammates, so I wasn’t sure whether I was going to keep up with the seniors like I’d been doing at U23 level. And, thinking about moving away from my family in Nottingham was difficult. It was the first time I’d ever thought about quitting.’

But, she maintains that rowing has taught her to keep going when things get tough, so it didn’t take her long to figure out that a life without her sport looked much less inviting! She also attests to the fact that continuing to row makes her much more employable, having learned important skills surrounding communication, patience and teamwork.

Katie doesn’t know what the future holds for her rowing career right now, only that she’s enjoying training and racing locally for her new rowing club. But, she does have great vision for what she hopes the future of the sport could look like.

‘I’m not really tuned in to what’s happening too much at grassroots level, but there’s still very little ethnic diversity amongst elite rowing. There’s no role models to encourage kids of all ability and background to get rowing, and it’s disappointing because we’re missing out on such a big pool of people. London Youth Rowing is doing a great job of trying to make the sport inclusive across the board and NJIRC gave me an insight into what the rowing world could look like… Best of luck to all those racing this year, and maybe one day I’ll see you on the start line!'

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