#WSW2017: Alice Baatz charts her rise from World Class Start to international racing
As part of Womens Sport Week, we chat to Alice Baatz – a graduate of the World Class Start programme – about her progress along the pathway into the GB Rowing Team
Just nine months ago, Alice Baatz was finishing her postgraduate psychology degree at the University of Manchester. Last weekend, the 23-year-old lined up for her first senior international event at the World Rowing Cup in Poznan.
Alice is one of the latest cohort of graduates from British Rowing’s successful World Class Start programme to join the senior ranks and make their debuts this year, following in the footsteps of Olympians such as Heather Stanning, Helen Glover and Alex Gregory.
The Winchester-born athlete learned to row while studying at Bangor University, but signed up to World Class Start in Manchester under the tuition of coach Hamish Burrell.
Despite having some rowing background – which is not a pre-requisite for joining Start – Alice was put through the same testing and training programme as the other athletes, ensuring she possessed the right skillset to train to be an Olympian.
“The idea with Start is that if you haven’t laid that concrete foundation, the building is going to collapse,” she said.
“You need to be able to do the basics to be able to put things together into a proper stroke, a proper race. You need to build it from the bottom.”
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Many athletes on the World Class Start programme have come from different sporting backgrounds. Glover, for example was a county-level tennis player, while Gregory was a competitive swimmer in his youth.
Potential Start athletes are chosen on their physical and mental attributes. Males need to be 6’2 or over, while females are required to be at least 5’10. Rowers need to be willing to work hard, both technically and physically, to progress into a potential Olympian.
Nearly two thirds of current World Class Start athletes are female, with eight female graduates winning medals in international regattas this season. Many of them, like Alice, started rowing at university, but anyone aged 14 or over can sign up for testing.
Alice knew of some of the success stories from World Class Start when she signed up, giving her the confidence that her hard work could lead her to the Olympic Games.
“You’ve got people like Helen, Heather and Vicky [Thornley] who have come up through start who are and were at the absolute top of GB rowing – one of the top programmes in the world.
“I knew that some of the top athletes had come through Start. It shows that the programme works. If you stick at it and work hard then it does work. It’s good to be shown that these people started where you did and have worked their way up.”
Alice reached the C final in Poznan, but her career goals lay further down the line. New athletes in the squad are being prepared to be at their best in Tokyo in 2020, while new World Class Start rowers could be in with a shot of attending the 2024 Games.
We are actively looking for people to sign up to World Class Start and train to become future Olympians. Being part of the programme gives you access to world-class coaches and facilities that support your development as an athlete.
World Class Start gives you the opportunity to push yourself and achieve more than you thought you could, act as ambassadors for the sport and inspire others.
“You’re given the coaching and all the facilities are set up and ready to go; all you need to do is turn up and row,” Alice added.
“Alongside everything else, I’ve made a lot of good friends through Start and you have a really good time. Plus, if you can learn a new skill and progress that to another level then that’s really good. You have nothing to lose by signing up.”