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Eight athletes from Scotland named in GB team for under 23 Worlds

Posted: July 12, 2017

Eight Scots and members of Scottish university rowing programmes were amongst 56 athletes named in the Great Britain team today for next week’s World Rowing U23 Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria (19-23 July).

Edinburgh University is strongly represented, with three of its five selected athletes already world champions.

Gavin Horsburgh, who competed at senior level at the World Cup in Poznan this year, is looking for his third consecutive World Championships title, having won gold with the lightweight men’s quadruple scull in Rotterdam last August and gold in the quad as a junior in 2015.

This time around he joins forces with fellow Edinburgh University student Matthew Curtis – another member of the victorious 2016 quad – in the lightweight double.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Armstrong, meanwhile, finished 11th at World Cup II in Poznan in the men’s single, the same event that he will race in Plovdiv.  Armstrong was alongside Horsburgh in the gold medal junior quad in 2015.

Fellow Edinburgh students James Temple and Oli Wilkes will make their debuts for GB, racing respectively in the lightweight quad and the men’s coxed four.

Few are more delighted than Edinburgh University Head of Rowing, Colin Williamson, who will travel to Plovdiv as coach to the men’s single and lightweight double.  Joining him for the first time at full GB level is Edinburgh University’s John Higson, who will coach the men’s lightweight quad.

“I’m really pleased for this exciting group of Edinburgh athletes,” said Williamson.  

“Gavin, Matt and Josh are already quite experienced at World level, despite their age, and this year have progressed on to the most competitive events in Olympic boat classes.

“This is the first time James has represented GB and the first time Oli has done any representative rowing at any level. He’s been rowing less than three years so is another example of one of our athletes who has stepped on this year.

“And being selected to coach the lightweight quad is a great reward for John Higson who has been recognised for coaching athletes such as Maddie Arlett up to World level."

Whilst it comes as no surprise that Edinburgh is well represented in this year’s under 23 GB team, it was less expected that Aberdeen University’s Fiona Bell would make such a rapid improvement this season and be selected for the women’s eight.

“I’ve never competed at GB level before and this is my first year trialling, so I really wasn’t expecting anything at the start,” said 20-year-old Bell.

“I just wanted to get to know the system, work hard and see what happened. So to come through this year does show you your potential and it’s amazing to have been told you are worthy of being in the GB team.”

Bell lands in the women’s eight along with experienced GB rowers from last year’s silver medal-winning boat, together with newcomers like her pairs partner, Isobel Powell, who will sit in the seat behind her.

“Izzy and I are in the middle of the eight which I really like,” continued Bell (pictured training with Powell at Caversham for the final stages of 2017 selection trials).  “We were the underdogs in trials but we have made it into the crew.  

Fiona and Izzy

“So you have the reminder that you are new to this but also that you are valuable to the boat and you each have an individual role in the boat.”

Considering Bell had not even dreamt of making the final stages of selection trials this spring she has come a remarkably long way in a short time.

She acknowledges the support of Scottish Rowing, Aberdeen University and Winning Students, but in particular her coach Lewis McCue, who has guided her in the right direction over the past year.

“Lewis has made the biggest difference this year because he not only told me to trial in the first place but he gave me the confidence to do it and has brought me along massively,” explained Bell.

“I’ve dropped a lot off my 2k ergo times and my general training.  He knows what you need to do as he has done it himself as an athlete and he’s brought me up to that standard I needed to be at.”

The women’s eight have been together for just three weeks but have gone from strength to strength in their recent regattas. But Bell hopes and believes the best is still to come:  “We have such a determination and we are all fully committed - you feed off everyone else that you are training with.  

“We are all medal hungry and we are really excited to see what we can do on the international field.”

Lee Boucher, Scottish Rowing’s Head of Performance Pathway said:  “I am delighted to see such strong Scottish representation on the Great Britain team heading to the World Rowing Under 23 Championships next week including a number of athletes and coaches from ‘home based’ programmes in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.  

“Already this season we have seen young Scottish rowers competing for Great Britain at a senior world level and this opportunity in Bulgaria will allow these athletes to test themselves against the best in the world in their own age group.

“With these selections and following some impressive performances by Scottish crews at Henley Royal Regatta recently we know that our programme is starting to develop a real strength in depth and this can be attributed to the excellent work of the coaching team backed by our strategic partnerships with the university sector, the sportscotland institute of sport and Winning Students.

“We look forward to following the progress of our athletes in Plovdiv and wish the Great Britain team all the very best for a successful championships.”

Full list of Scotland athletes and coaches selected for Great Britain for the World Rowing Under 23 Championships:

Josh Armstrong (Glasgow, Edinburgh Uni BC) 1x
Matt Curtis (Durham, Edinburgh Uni BC) / Gavin Horsburgh (Lochwinnoch, Edinburgh Uni BC) LM2x
James Temple (Kew, Edinburgh Uni BC) LM4x
Oli Wilkes (Matlock, Edinburgh Uni BC) M4+
Harry Leask (Edinburgh, Leander Club) M4x
Rob Hurn (Glasgow, Leander Club) M4-
Fiona Bell (Kilmacolm, Aberdeen Uni BC) W8+

Colin Williamson (Edinburgh Uni BC) LM2x and M1x coach
John Higson (Edinburgh Uni BC) LM4x coach