British Olympian Tom Solesbury came to West Norfolk Rowing Club at Denver Sluice on Saturday to give a talk and to row with one of the club’s junior members.
He held an audience with club members, talking about his life as an elite rower and recounting entertaining stories about races, disappointments and achievements.
He was happy to answer questions and it was inspirational, especially to the junior members of the club.
Tom competed for Team GB in the coxless pairs at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in the quadruple sculls at the London 2012 Olympics. He was a bronze medallist in the GB Men’s eight at the World Championships in Munich in 2007 and he rowed in the victorious Oxford crew at the 2009 Boat Race.
Tom is an Ambassador for The Muscle Help Foundation, working to champion their cause. The Foundation is a small UK family charity that delivers transformational experiences called Muscle Dreams for children and young people with the muscle wasting disease Muscular Dystrophy and allied neuromuscular conditions.
Members of the WNRC were photographed with Solesbury in the charity’s ‘Muscle Warrior’ pose to show their support, and funds were raised towards the Muscle Help Foundation.
After his talk, junior WNRC rower, Lily Fonzo, 16, took to the river in a double scull with Tom, and they rowed a 5km course along the River Great Ouse.
WNRC committee member Nix Marston said: “At 6 foot 6, Tom might seem a bit physically mismatched with Lily, but that’s one of the great things about sculling, since each rower has a pair of oars different people can row together. This rowing club has a number of couples who go out together in a double scull, or sometimes mixed junior and senior family crews. Lily and Tom looked good out on the river, and she did us proud.”
Lily said afterwards: “I was extremely nervous, but he was very kind and when we got in the boat and started to row the nerves went away. He taught me some new skills but was equally encouraging on what I was already doing. I was extremely lucky. Hearing him talk has given me an insight to what rowing is like at an Olympic level. I now want to go and compete in a race!”
Solesbury said: “It was great to see rowing bringing the community together. I don’t row much anymore, so it was enjoyable to get out on the water. Lily was a good standard, I was very impressed. I appreciate the club’s support for the Muscle Help Foundation.”
Marston added: “We were pleased that Tom saw the spirit in this small club. WNRC is growing and the aim is to be open to anyone interested in rowing, including all ages and abilities.”
Lily’s mother, a proud Victoria Fonzo, said: “It was really kind of Tom to come to our rowing club to enable as many people as possible to listen to him. I hope that the juniors found it inspirational – who knows there may be a future Olympic rower among them!”
Anyone wanting to support Tom’s charity can go to http://www.musclehelp.com/ and to find out more about West Norfolk Rowing Club, visit http://wnrc.westnorfolkrowingclub.co.uk/