With a whole host of British Olympic and Paralympic heroes watching on, one Putney rower could not wipe the smile off her face after she and her team were crowned national champions at the first ever Invesco Perpetual City Regatta Winners Row-Off in London.
Marieke Bal, and Thames Rowing Club teammates Vicky Brock, Irene Brits and Chantelle Miller, were the star performers at the capital’s Guildhall on Wednesday evening when they saw off regional winners from Edinburgh, Leeds and Bristol to win the title.
This year’s new Invesco Perpetual City Regatta saw four-strong male and female crews compete head to head on separate rowing machines at various regional events across the country with the best crews then going up against each other for the national title.
Bal and her teammates – who claimed victory at the London heat back in August before winning Wednesday’s Row-Off – were also welcomed to Leander Club’s ‘Celebrate the Journey’ black tie dinner following the final, celebrating the club’s phenomenal success at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
There, they mingled with the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave and many of Team GB’s medallists this summer, and Bal admitted it was the experience of a lifetime.
“We won the women’s final after a 1km sprint on the erg, which is great,” said the 28-year-old, who works for British Rowing.
“We were a bit nervous before the race because we really wanted to win, but we’ve been training for the past few weeks with the start of the new rowing season so we felt really good coming in to the final.
“We’re back training nine times a week both on the water and in the gym, getting our fitness back, so we knew our performance in the final should be better than our heat in Canary Wharf, but we didn’t know how good the other heat winners would be.
“It was great having some of the Olympians watching on, but also quite nerve-wracking. But we did our best and luckily that was enough.
“I watched a lot of the Olympics and Paralympics and it is a great inspiration for the season to come.”
Designed to test both fitness and teamwork, the Invesco Perpetual City Regatta is open to everyone – from seasoned pros, rowing novices or those who are just up for a new challenge.
During the competition, all four crew members row on separate rowing machines at the same time over a target distance of 1km with the racing software producing a 500m split pace for each rower, while the individual splits are then compiled in real time into one average split pace for the entire crew.
Watching all the action unfold was Leander Club captain Alex Gregory, who won his second successive Olympic gold in the men’s coxless four in Rio this summer, and he admits he was thrilled with the talent on show.
“It has been a great night and this Invesco Perpetual City Regatta concept is fantastic, and I really hope it continues next year, and for many more years to come,” he said.
“Any opportunity to showcase rowing and our sport, the sport we as athletes hold so dearly to ourselves, is really important.
“Having the Invesco Perpetual City Regatta go around the country over the last few months has been invaluable to that, getting people involved in sport and involved in rowing from all walks of life.
“What a venue the Guildhall is to celebrate our success at the Olympics. It’s just the perfect place, and it feels a little bit like this is the Olympics coming to an end.
“We have to move on to the next Olympiad and move on to the next ventures whatever they may be, so this is the last celebration.”
Invesco Perpetual’s innovative new ‘City Regatta’ event aims to encourage more people across the UK to get involved in rowing, and is staged in association with Leander Club, the world’s most successful rowing club. 24 Leander rowers competed in Rio 2016, producing 12 Olympic medalists.