By Robe Cole
Welsh rower Vicky Thornley was able to take part in a very special event at the Henley Royal Regatta last weekend as she joined some of the biggest names in the sport in Britain in a row past to commemorate 200 years of the Leander Rowing Club.
On a weekend when one of the world’s greatest sporting institutions wished itself a Happy Birthday on home water, it was a real moment of pride for the Olympic silver medallist, who this year was named as only the second woman to captain the club.
Founded in 1818, the Leander Club boasts an unsurpassed record in rowing achievements and Wales’ champion sculler is currently the skipper of a club that counts Olympic golden greats such as Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, triple gold medallist Peter Reed and double gold medallists James Cracknell, Steve Williams and Alex Gregory among its membership.
“It’s a big honour and something I never really expected, but to have this happen in Leander’s bicentenary year is very special,” said Thornley, who joined the club eight years ago.
“It was such a special afternoon being able to row past with so many Olympic heroes at Henley to celebrate Leander’s 200 years. I’m just so very proud to be part of such an incredible club.”
That was the only icing on the cake for Thornley, unfortunately, as she was beaten in the semi-final of the Princess Royal Challenge Cup by Aussie rival Madeleine Edmunds. It was a bitter blow after losing out in the final the previous year.
But there was still plenty of Welsh success to cheer at the event where 13 Welsh rowers took part on finals day.
Graeme Thomas and Tom Barras joined forces in the Leander / Agecroft quad to beat the Norwegian national boat in a straight medal race for the Queen Mother’s Cup, while Stephen Griffiths and Ben Thomas teamed up in the Thames RC eight boat to win the Thames Cup.
Harry Brightmore, Matt Aldridge and Matt Hnatiw were all in the Oxford Brookes University eight that won the Ladies Challenge Plate, while James Stanhope was in the Leader RC coxless fours team that won the Visitors’ Challenge Cup.
The other Welsh winner was Ollie Hines, who was part of the Imperial College coxed fours team that carried off the Prince Albert Cup.