World Indoor Rowing Championships success; Paris.

13th February, 2020

Minerva Bath Rowing Club’s rowing-machine queen has triumphed again – this time on the world stage, with a silver medal at the Indoor Championships in Paris.

At the World Rowing Indoor Championships, (7-8 February 2020), being held for the first time in France, athletes from 51 fought it out for world titles on the rowing machine.

In her day job as a veterinary surgeon at Bath Cats and Dogs Home, Heidi Richards’ nurturing and egalitarian approach is evident, but put her on a rowing machine and she is single-mindedly competitive.

Her training had consisted of an intensive eight to ten sessions a week on the rowing machine in her garage or at Minerva’s boathouse in Newbridge, Bath, plus weights sessions at the gym (all alongside her usual water rowing sessions across the week, and her job!). She went into the competition knowing she had “knocked a chunk of time off” her personal best.

In Paris on Friday evening Heidi, who holds the British record for the 1,000m indoor sprint in the heavyweight women (aged 50-59), lined up for the Masters’ Women’s 500m sprint alongside athletes from six other nations. Flanked by ex-Olympian, Isabelle Laccours-Danjou of France, and Margit Hansen Haar of Denmark, who holds four world records, she knew that she’d have to give it everything.

It paid off. She was delighted to win silver, finishing just 0.7 seconds behind Hansen Haar with a time of 1m 37.5secs and beating Malin Faraasen of Sweden into third place by a huge 1.4secs. It’s a massive deal for the amateur, who only learned to row in 2016, and a huge boost for the local club.

The result attracted congratulations on Twitter from former Olympian rowers Helen Glover (who is Minerva’s Patron) and Annamarie Phelps, as well as the Chief Executive of Sport England, Tim Hollingsworth.

Heidi gave a typically understated reply: “I was really happy with the result… they gave me a medal and also a baguette, so who wouldn’t be?” After that huge effort, Ms Richards celebrated with a visit to a Parisien patisserie and allowed herself to sample the capital’s champagne.

Her return to Minerva this week will be typically low-key; “I’m back on the water with the Midweek Scullers from Monday and I hope this win sends the message not to let age hold you back. I never thought I’d be doing anything like this four years ago, but I’ve had fantastic support and encouragement from my club mates and family. Hopefully more people will realise that rowing is a brilliant sport that’s open to all age groups and abilities.

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