Rowing in Oz!

Words Molly Wightman

It was a given that I would take a gap year but as rowing became an increasingly large part of my life during Sixth Form, I knew I wanted to continue rowing at a high level whilst also experiencing a new culture and become more confident and independent before heading to university. Sport Lived provided the perfect opportunity to accomplish this so I dived into the deep end and moved 9,000 miles away from home to row in Australia for six months.

I became truly immersed into Melbourne life during the Sport Lived programme. I was met at the airport on arrival and transferred to apartments that were filled with like-minded sporty people from the UK, USA and Germany. Friendships were made quickly as we explored what the city had to offer. This was easy to do as our apartments were situated in the heart of Melbourne, a two minute walk from the buzzing Chapel Street and close to Melbourne’s excellent tram and train networks . On my second day, I was introduced to coaches and other athletes at Banks Rowing Club. They were incredibly welcoming and I soon developed close friendships that I will value forever. With their help, I was never without a lift to a regatta or a guide to show me their favourite parts of Victoria.

The training itself was rigorous: four to five early morning training sessions on the water each week, and a tailored programme of weights, ergs, and land based fitness. Rowing on the impressive Yarra River most days certainly developed my technique – far beyond the mainly off-water training I’d previously experienced at my club in London. I will never forget the bustling atmosphere along Boathouse Drive at 6am each morning as school, club, and masters rowers all launched their boats onto the Yarra from seven side-by-side clubhouses before the rest of Melbourne had woken up. Between January and March we raced in regattas nearly every weekend where I benefitted from all those early morning training sessions. Competing allowed me to explore new parts of Australia, win a few medals (including a silver at the Victorian State Championships), and race in two finals at the Australian National Rowing Championships in Sydney.

Sport Lived provided plenty of support throughout my time in Melbourne but the programme also gave me the space and independence to develop my own routine. As I’d previously worked in a café in the UK, I secured a job shortly after my arrival in Australia enabling a seamless transition into Melbourne life.

Throughout my six month trip, Sport Lived arranged regular social events which showcased attractions and amazing events that take place in Melbourne between September and March. The Boxing Day Test match, first AFL game of the season and the Great Ocean Road tour were particular highlights of my time in Australia that I know I’ll always remember. I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced these and it’s been special to share them with people I’ve met on the Sport Lived programme.

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