St Neots rower looking for success at Olympic Festival

A ST NEOTS woman will be rowing for Britain in Sydney next month, and some are already tipping her to be rowing at London 2012. Joanna Fitzsimons, 18, will be joining over 100 young British athletes at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) from J

A ST NEOTS woman will be rowing for Britain in Sydney next month, and some are already tipping her to be rowing at London 2012.

Joanna Fitzsimmons, 18, will be joining over 100 young British athletes at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) from January 14 to 18.

"I'm really looking forward to the festival, I can't wait. Sydney will be the furthest I have ever been," said Fitzsimons. She has already competed in the last two Junior World Championships in Beijing 2007 and won bronze at the same event this year in Linz, Austria.

"This is really the next step up. Back home in St Neots they are really excited for me," she said.


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Fitzsimons started rowing in 2001 when she was 11, just before she started senior school.

"I got going quicker than most people but it took me a year or so to start being competitive," she said.

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She is currently studying for a degree in music at Durham University.

The university recently awarded her with a sports scholarship, and she currently practices with the university rowing club but is still part of the St Neots set up.

With the AYOF less than one month away, Fitzsimons is training hard to make sure she will be ready. "I train twice a day. We vary training between on the water practicing and fitness training like using rowing machines."

Martyn Rooney, Junior Coach of the St Neots Rowing Club, said she "showed potential to succeed right from the beginning".

She is the second woman from the club to represent Great Britain at the AYOF, as last year saw St Neots' Jacqui Round compete in the festival.

Asked about Fitzsimons' Olympic credentials, Mr Rooney said: "I think 2012 is a bit soon but 2016 is certainly a possibility."

The AYOF event will see 1,600 young athletes from 25 countries compete in what is regarded as testing ground before they aim for the Olympics.

"With the London Olympic games less than four years away, many of these athletes will be hoping to use this experience as a stepping stone to 2012," said Team GB leader Mark England. "This festival presents a fantastic opportunity for over 100 of our finest young potential Olympians to get their first taste of Olympic competition."

The athletes age between 13 and 19 and compete in 11 Olympic sports: archery, canoeing/kayaking, diving, equestrian, fencing, gymnastics, hockey, rowing, shooting, triathlon and beach volleyball.

The 2009 AYOF is only the second time Britain has participated, with the 106 British athletes in 2007 bringing home 91 medals. They bagged a respectable 14 gold, 20 silver and 14 bronze medals. Eight of those athletes then went on to represent Britain at the Beijing Olympics this summer, with two winning medals.

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