University of Bath-based rower Vicky Thornley has been named as one of the greatest success stories of recent talent identification schemes.
Vicky’s success was highlighted as UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport joined forces to launch Talent 2016: Tall and Talented to find athletes capable of representing and winning medals for Great Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
The 21-year-old, who is a member of the Minerva Bath Rowing Club and trains at the University of Bath, was formerly a show jumper and her potential as a rower was spotted through the Sporting Giants programme.
She subsequently gained a place on British Rowing’s World Class Start programme, which is sponsored by Siemens and supported by UK Sport with National Lottery money, where she is coached by Paul Stannard, British Rowing’s World Class Start Performance Development Coach.
Less than two years later, in July 2009, she was a member of the British women’s eight that struck gold at the Under-23 World Championships. It was the first time a British women’s eight have won a World Championships title at any level, and her performances earned her the TeamBath women’s athlete of the month award, which is sponsored by Oakley and Vousden Opticians.
“I hadn’t sat in a boat two years ago,” said Vicky, “but I took a chance and with a lot of hard work it’s paying off, I’ve had an amazing year. You can do a lot in a short space of time if you put your mind to it.”
UK Sport’s Head of Athlete Development, Chelsea Warr, said: “Talent 2016 is about reducing the luck factor in sporting success. A number of individuals have been identified in previous searches over the past two years and had gone on to win medals at major championships.
“Just look what Vicky Thornley has achieved in just two years, and imagine what you could be capable of in the seven years we have until Rio.
“There are individuals out there who have no idea how good they could be. Put them into a structured programme and with lots of hard work the possibilities are genuine. Just put your hand up and come forward.“
Andy Hodge and Katherine Grainger, two of Britiain’s top rowers and Beijing 2008 Olympic medallists, launched the Talent 2016: Tall and Talented initiative today, calling on the next generation of British athletes to step up and find out if they have what it takes to follow in their footsteps.
Previous campaigns run by the UK Talent Team have highlighted the benefits of taking a more proactive and scientific approach to matching athletes with their ideal sport. Sporting Giants, Girls4Gold and Pitch2Podium have successfully identified a number of athletes, who are all now striving for success either in London or the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.
The time has now come to look even further ahead and ensure the momentum that is building towards London is not lost post 2012, but serves to create a lasting legacy of British sporting success.
With almost all athletes likely to compete in London already identified and in the system, ‘Talent 2016’ will consist of a series of searches looking to unearth athletic youngsters with the potential to reach the podium in Rio in seven years time. The first search in the series, ‘Tall and Talented’, is looking for men and woman between the ages of 15 – 22 and over the heights of 180cm or 5’ 11” (for women) and 190cm or 6’ 3” (for men), who could find success in sports where height can give an athlete a real advantage, such as rowing and basketball.
To sign up for Talent 2016: Tall and Talented, or to register interest in future Talent 2016 campaigns, applicants should submit their details before 16 November 2009 at www.uksport.gov.uk/talent
Successful candidates will be invited to talent assessment days across the UK:
Stirling – 9 January 2010
Bath – 10 January 2010
Loughborough – 16 & 17 January 2010
Gateshead – 24 & 25 January 2010
London – 30 & 31 January 2010