HARRIET NOYES of Stratford Boat Club produced a superb performance to win a gold medal at the prestigious British Rowing Indoor Championships.
Held at Lee Valley VeloPark in the iconic Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, the annual event sees athletes aged from 11 to 80-plus competing alongside individual entrants, club rowers, Team GB rowers and Olympians.
Noyes won gold in the year eight girls’ 500m event and bronze in the three-minute competition in the same age group and her achievements were the highlight of a fine Stratford Boat Club effort.
First into the arena for Stratford was Nixie Brunt in the year 11 girls’ six-minute event in a very strong field, taken from some of the best clubs in the country.
This made for good racing with Brunt starting off confidently to lead the race. Against relentless opposition as the finish neared, she finally placed 13th in a field of 59 contestants with a distance of 1,573m.
The next race saw Sophie Elstone competing in the year ten girls’ five-minute event in a field of 94 rowers including the current U16 world indoor champion.
With so many entrants, the race was held in three heats, with Elstone being in the first. Keeping calmly to her plan, she kept a commanding and clear lead throughout to win her heat with little opposition.
With the distances tallied at the completion of the third heat, she finished in seventh position overall with a distance of 1,326m, only 24m from the medals.
The velodrome crowd had now increased to maximum and next to walk up the ramp to be greeted by the collective cheers were Noyes and Millie Hodgson in the year eight girls’ 500m.
Both started strongly, with Noyes advancing up the field to establish an early lead and Hodgson pushing through to settle in the top third.
Showing exceptional control in her first competitive rowing event, Noyes held on against strong competition from established clubs to finish a clear five seconds from her closest opposition to win the gold medal in a time of 1:48.
Hodgson maintained her position to finish ninth in the group of 24 in 1:57, only two seconds from a medal place.
A three-hour break between events allowed Noyes to recover and prepare for the year eight girls’ three-minute event and more exciting racing was to come.
Facing the current world record holder, Noyes once again kept control and showed great physical and mental strength to hold her own during a tough three minutes and finish in a deserved bronze medal position with 787m.
The Stratford juniors’ final events featured Brunt in the year 11 girls’ 500m and Elstone and Harriet Hodgson in the year ten girls’ 500m.
Taking to their machines on the floor at the same time, in different areas of the arena, the girls faced determined opposition in a sprint event which drains energy in a most extraordinarily short time.
Support from all sections of the crowd for every rower was deafening as the large screens constantly displayed their ever-changing positions. The races were quickly over and the drained and exhausted athletes awaited their placings, the heats having to be taken into account.
Finally the results were announced, with Brunt finishing in bronze medal position in 1:39, amazingly only 0.9 of a second behind the winner. In the year ten event, Elstone finished fourth in 1:44 – one second behind the bronze medal place – with Harriet Hodgson in 17th place with a time of 1:49, six seconds from the medals.
Coach Trevor Tiller said: “This was another great day for Stratford juniors at the world’s biggest indoor rowing event and Britain’s biggest mass-participation indoor sporting event.
“For Harriet Noyes to win gold and bronze medals and become a British champion at her first competitive event is an amazing achievement and shows great promise for the future.
“The fantastic results from each of our rowers and the performances overall show Stratford Boat Club remains a club to keep an eye on.”
Meanwhile, in the senior events, Sophie’s grandfather Andrew Elstone raced in the first event of the day – the masters 65 to 69-year 2,000m – and finished fifth in his age group, 14 seconds from the medals with a time of 7:26.
Harriet’s father Ed Hodgson, competing against members of the GB rowing team in the open men’s 2,000m, finished only 62 seconds from the medals in a time of 6:49.
Tiller added: “They were great performances from both. Now to get them on the water!”