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A tale of two Bostons for Edinburgh rower Hart-Winks

23 February 2016
Robyn Hart-Winks will be swapping the water for the gym at the World Indoor Rowing Championships this weekend. Photo: Rob Eyton-Jones

Robyn Hart-Winks will be swapping the water for the gym at the World Indoor Rowing Championships this weekend. Photo: Rob Eyton-Jones

A former Highland dancing world champion is working her way up a similar ladder of achievement in rowing.

University of Edinburgh scholar, Robyn Hart-Winks, this month won her GB senior selection trial in Boston, Lincolnshire.  This weekend she competes in Boston, USA, at the World Indoor Rowing Championships.

“I’ve been dancing since I was five but when I started university it was difficult for me to travel home for dance classes each week,” said the Kirriemuir 22-year-old who is studying an MA in Linguistics and English. 

“I knew that rowing was a sport you can start from scratch at a late age so as soon as I came to Edinburgh I decided to give rowing a try.”

She quickly found her years of strict dance training had given her the perfect physical and mental foundations to transfer to the notorious rowing regime. 

And she soon prospered. In the 2014 British Championships, she won gold for the University of Edinburgh in the under 23 lightweight double, retaining the title in 2015. She also won gold for Scotland in the lightweight single at the 2015 Home International Regatta.

But winning this month’s selection trials in the lightweight single class marked a new high.

“That was the third and the last winter assessment for the GB senior team, and based on my results I’m hoping to gain an invite to the Olympic Trials in March and the final trials in April,” said Robyn, admitting it is probably too soon in her career for her to compete in this year’s Games.

“Last year I did well in the first trial and dropped off by this stage so to win last weekend’s trial shows I’m progressing. I’m going to go as far as I can and I am aiming for this year’s Senior Worlds.”

Straight after winning last November’s Scottish Indoor title and based on the time she set, Robyn was invited by event sponsor Concept2 to compete at the Worlds Indoor Rowing Championships in Boston, USA.

“I’ve never been to an indoor event of this size before so it’s another level up and an amazing opportunity,” she said.

“It’s a long way to travel for a 2k race on an ergometer but it’s the most excited I have ever been. I’m hoping to at least get my PB. I’ve looked at past results and I’m hoping that would be good enough to put me in top three.” 

Fast becoming the UK’s go-to rowing university, with a second place in the 2015 BUCS Championships, Edinburgh was last summer recognised as Scotland’s first GB High Performance Programme.

“The university training programme is amazing and over the last few years the the standard of rowing here has got so much better,” explained Robyn.

“When I started it was run by volunteers and there wasn’t any funding in the club.  But now there is more investment, we have professional coaches and it’s been amazing to see how the club has grown. 

“There are over 200 athletes in the boat club and it’s really cool to have so many of us training together and pushing each other.”

Robyn is one of 148 students supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships programme for student athletes. Through the programme she receives funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies. 

Seventeen Scottish universities and 14 colleges form the Winning Students network. Students at network colleges and universities benefit from a dedicated co-ordinator to ensure they can balance their studies and sport effectively.

“Rowing is a full on sport, with training pretty much twice a day every day that has to fit around studies,” added Robyn.  

“But the support I get from Winning Students and the university is amazing.  When I have deadlines the university are pretty understanding.

“The funding is invaluable and there’s no way I can have a part time job because rowing takes up all my spare time.”