Sarah Dineen: Morten Espersen will be missed but the work goes on

Rowing Ireland’s High Performance director, Morten Espersen confirmed this week he is resigning from his position, bringing to a close a huge contribution made by the Dane over the past four years. 

Such has been his effect his legacy will hopefully continue well into the future.

The HP programme has consequently necessitated a reshuffle but there is a determination the programme, and its athletes, continue to go from strength to strength, with Espersen continuing to work closely with Rowing Ireland for the next three months until the position is reassigned.

On the subject of High Performance, a women’s development camp is to be held at Offaly Rowing Club this weekend with athletes invited based on performances at the Irish Open, the Irish Indoor Rowing Championships or by invite from Rowing Ireland.

This will be followed in a fortnight by a camp for all athletes; Juniors, Seniors and U23s, in two locations - the National Rowing Centre in Cork and the top class facility developed in recent years in Lough Rynn, Co. Leitrim. The course at Lough Rynn held its inaugural annual regatta on Saturday May 14 last year, and this year is scheduled for May 13.

It is one of the many highly anticipated events on the domestic rowing calendar of 2017, which will begin with Cork Head of the River (time trials) on Saturday February 11. The events will be mainly “HORs” until the regatta season launches on April 1, with the 35th Neptune Regatta.

One of the concerns in Irish rowing is the large numbers of female rowers who leave the sport once their athletic career ends, with very few making the transition to coaching. In Ireland we have nearly 50% of women rowing and a vast number of women partaking in Rowing Ireland coaching courses.

However, these women are not transitioning to the river banks as coaches or undertaking higher level courses. To assist in tackling this issue and encouraging more women to get involved by empowering and giving them the techniques and confidence to successfully become rowing coaches, Rowing Ireland and the Women in Sport/Get Going…Get Rowing programmes, along with Sport NI, have organised a weekend with Laryssa Biesenthal, Olympic athlete and coach, to mentor female coaches across two sessions.

The first in Portadown and the second in Blessington. Biesenthal is a World Rowing Level IV coach, who has coached for two Olympic cycles for Canada and Australia. The Canadian also has two Olympic medals as an athlete and is passionate about women in coaching and helping them get on that coaching ladder.

Meanwhile in a boost for Munster rowing, the “Get Going...Get Rowing” initiative has secured extra funding to expand and develop the programme in West Cork. Last October, a grant of €17,000 was announced, through Sport Ireland and the Dormant Accounts Committee, with a proposal to establish the Get Going…Get Rowing programme in Limerick, and now with the addition of resources in West Cork the initiative is going from strength to strength in the province.

The new project in West Cork is tasked with introducing women to the sport of rowing and to general fitness through the facilitation of a schools indoor rowing programme, linked to local rowing clubs.

Applicants are now being sought who are interested in working part time in Skibbereen to establish and run the programme in close consultation with the programme manager Michelle Carpenter.

Michelle, a former international rower and one of the first female members of Shannon Rowing Club, is passionate about getting girls rowing, together with bringing them to their local clubs to experience the merits of getting out on the water. The Limerick woman has been asked to represent World Rowing at the second IOC (International Olympic Committee) Women in Leadership forum in Lausanne in March.

“It’s a great honour to represent World Rowing and Rowing Ireland at this international Olympic event,” says Carpenter. “A big focus for me over the coming months will be to further develop as many prospects as possible to empower girls and women to take part in our sport at all levels.

“In line with this, it is a fantastic opportunity to be asked to work with our international body, FISA, to strengthen women’s involvement in the sport globally.”


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