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Rowing World Championships: Northern Ireland celebrate continued rowing success in Belgrade

A glance at the medal table in the fourteen Olympic boat classes at the end of World Rowing Championships in Belgrade sees powerhouses Australia with three, New Zealand with two, Germany and China with one and Canada with none.

Northern Ireland had four medals. A gold for Hannah Scott in the women's quad sculls and bronze medals for Rebecca Shorten in the women's four, Philip Doyle in the men's double sculls and Nathan Timoney and Ross Corrigan in the men's pair.

Rebecca Edwards was close to taking another as she finished fourth in the women's eight.

Now, yes, it does help when you can count athletes from two countries - Great Britain and Ireland - but the legacy of representation from Northern Ireland at Olympic level rowing remains strong and shows no sign of letting up.

'We're pushing higher and higher'

"I wanted to win the medal to make sure I wasn't left out and their efforts spurred me on," said Banbridge's Doyle.

"It puts me under pressure that I don't want to be the one Northern Irish rower who doesn't end up on the podium.

"It's kind of like a pressure cooker. Every Northern Irish rower here for either Ireland or Great Britain, qualified for the Olympics in their category," he explained.

"If you asked me how many a few years ago, it was maybe one or two of us. Every year we're pushing higher and higher.

"For only six counties to be performing so well across two different nations, it's just spectacular and we all want to see each other do well. There is heartbreak when we don't win the golds, but it is great to see the podium finishes from all of us."

Doyle's Irish team mates Nathan Timoney and Ross Corrigan played Gaelic Games when they were younger.

Corrigan was a footballer at Kinawley while Timoney enjoyed hurling but they were bitten by the rowing bug under the guidance and coaching of two former Irish Olympians Ian Kennedy (1976 Montreal, 1980 Moscow) and Derek Holland (1996 Atlanta) at Enniskillen Royal Boat Club.

Now, after only being together in a pair for three months, they not only qualified for the Olympics but won a World bronze medal.

Corrigan went to Queen's University in Belfast where he met Rebecca Edwards, who took up the sport at university, although Doyle is taking credit for the Fermanagh man.

"I take responsibility for Ross Corrigan's legacy. I was on the bike in Queens and this young pup came along with curly hair, and he was like, 'hello, how are you? I'm Ross Corrigan' and I was like, 'how are you?'

"Then for the next couple of years we just became best friends. We live together now in Cork and anything he does I have to do the same or better, so we push each other."

He added: "I take responsibility for him and he takes responsibility for me and we keep each other honest. We have the hard talks through the year.

"It's great to see them perform so well and for me, to be able to match that performance, was amazing."

'There's something in the water'

What about Northern Ireland's newest World champion, Hannah Scott?

When you're from the north coast and the Bann Rowing Club, you don't have to look too far for inspiration when you're growing up.

Richard Archibald was a world champion for Ireland and made the lightweight men's four final at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

That was the first of four Games for Coleraine's Alan Campbell, the only local athlete to compete in that many Olympics, and his crowning moment was his bronze medal in the single sculls at London 2012.

The day before Campbell raced, brothers Richard and Peter Chambers took silver in the lightweight men's four while young Hannah watched on, inspired.

Eleven years later, she had the biggest smile in Belgrade.

"I can't believe it. Honestly, I'm beside myself. It'll take a while for this to actually settle in. If someone had told me that at the age of 12 that a little girl from Coleraine would be standing here now, it's a dream come true," beamed Scott.

"When I was growing up, Richard, Peter Chambers, Alan Campbell all came from the Bann Rowing Club. Watching them growing up, I always was like, 'if they can do it, why can't I?'

"They definitely inspired me. Having Rich now on our coaching team, he took me for many gelatos when we were in Varese on training camp and it's so nice to have people from Northern Ireland around me," she admitted.

"There's definitely something in the water, I have to say that the people that came before me definitely brought me here today as well."

Inspiring the next generation

Richard and Peter Chambers are both coaching young and aspiring rowers. Richard oversaw the GB women's pair and eight qualify for the Paris Olympics this week.

"Hannah and the two Rebeccas, they are all outstanding athletes. To work with them is a real privilege and it's gonna be really exciting to see what they can do over the next ten months," said Chambers.

"I learned so much through my time being an athlete. I'm in a really privileged position where I can actually go and help others achieve their dreams and goals.

"Hopefully, I can impart something of what I've learned over the last fifteen years.

"I won't ever take it for granted and I'm pretty sure there's already some really exciting talent from Northern Ireland coming through."

It was a conversation five years ago that Richard told me to look out for an exciting young talented rower called Hannah Scott, who had just moved to the USA to attend Princeton University. The rest, as they say, is history.

So who should be looking out for in the future?

Molly Curry and Rachel Bradley were 8th at this year's World under-23 championships in the Quad Sculls for Great Britain and could make a breakthrough during the next Olympic cycle.

Maybe, Muryn Greene, a senior at Oregon State University, formally of Loreto College in Coleraine or Ellie-Kate Hutchinson, a sophomore at Syracuse University from Castlerock or Irish champion Flynn Greene, also from the Bann Rowing Club. There are others coming through.

After this week, there is an excitement building as to what could be achieved by Northern Ireland rowers at the Paris Olympics next summer.

This current group are continuing the legacy of Northern Ireland rowing at the very highest level, and it doesn't look like it's going to slow down any time soon.