Mel Chowns retires after 12 years with the GB Rowing Team

For 12 years Mel has helped GB Rowing Team athletes with their personal and professional development

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Mel Chowns providing social media commentary at GBRT trials (Nick Middleton, 2019)

Tributes from current and retired members of the GB Rowing Team have been pouring in for Performance Lifestyle Advisor Mel Chowns as she retires today.

Mel has been part of the GB Rowing Team since 2009, originally joining on a maternity cover contract and soon after becoming the first full-time, dedicated Performance Lifestyle Advisor for the GB Rowing Team.

“In my time as a Performance Lifestyle Advisor, the role has definitely become more accepted and understood,” she said. “There’s been a shift to encouraging more personal and professional development for athletes and a recognition that having something in your life outside sport is healthy and beneficial. It’s been fantastic to have been a fully integrated part of the team.”

Performance Lifestyle Advisors are employed by the English Institute of Sport and are embedded within the Olympic and Paralympic sports they work with. Their aim is to support athletes in their personal and professional development as they move through and away from world class programmes.

Olympic silver medallist Vicky Thornley paid tribute to Mel, saying: “It’s hard to put into words how much I will miss having Mel as part of the team. She has been so much more than just a Performance Lifestyle Advisor to me over the years. She’s been there to celebrate the good times, and a shoulder to cry on in the bad. She has been a rock to this team and it won’t be the same without her.”

Three-time Olympic champion Pete Reed OBE said: “None of us can thank Mel enough for her tireless support and for pouring all her experience into our performing lives and transition challenges.  She’s changed so many lives for the better at the most demanding times for all of us.”

Double Olympic medallist Debbie Flood said: “Words can’t describe how much impact Mel has had on so many of us during her time with rowing. Her care, wisdom and dedication have made those invaluable differences not only to our rowing performance and career futures, but to us as individuals on a deeper level.”

Olympic gold medallist Kat Copeland said: “Mel was such a rock and support to me both when I was rowing and after I retired. Her smiley face, cups of tea and words of wisdom helped me get through a lot. She went above and beyond to help us enjoy ourselves and feel valued as people – from Friday quiz sheets to the biggest thumbs up at the finish line at final trials every year.”

Joanna Harrison, Head of Performance Lifestyle at the English Institute of Sport, said: “It has been a total and utter pleasure to know and work with Mel over the 10+ years I’ve been lucky enough to be her colleague. She is a truly special lady who has given so much so gladly to the Performance Lifestyle cause, her colleagues and of course the athletes she has wholeheartedly supported during her time. She can look back at this chapter of her life and career and be exceptionally proud.”

British Rowing Director of Performance Brendan Purcell said: “We have been very lucky to have Mel as part of our team for the past 12 years. The tributes she has received from rowers and staff alike show how much of an impact she has had on everybody she has worked with. She will be missed at Caversham but will always be part of the GB Rowing Team.”

Reflecting on her career, Mel said: “My highlight has been working with such amazing people. Of course it’s fantastic to see them win Olympic or World Championship medals but, for me, the joy has come in helping them find a job or supporting them through a tough time. I love when people ring me up to tell me how they’re doing. That has been totally rewarding.”

“I’ve had a wonderful time and hope to stay friends with many people. It’s absolutely a dream job and I would recommend it to anyone.”

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