BY KIERAN McCARTHY
A TALENTED Skibbereen rower, who has targeted the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, is currently on a fundraising drive to help cover her hefty costs.
Denise Walsh (22), who has won 12 national championships with Skibbereen Rowing Club, is busy training for a huge few weeks of international action when she will represent Ireland in the lightweight women’s double, alongside Claire Lambe (24), from Dublin.
The duo are part of the Rowing Ireland High Performance team and have been selected to compete at April’s Piediluco International Regatta in Italy, ahead of the European Championships in Poland in May.
Denise and Claire have to pay levies to compete in both Piediluco and the Europeans, and that’s why they set up a gofundme.com page (www.gofundme.com/claireanddenise) to help raise funds to cover their costs and help them realise their rowing dreams and potential.
Their total costs up to the Europeans are €3,400 for the training camp and competitions.
‘Myself and Claire were selected for the Irish women’s lightweight doubles after we won the lightweight trials in February,’ Denise explained.
‘It costs a lot of money for us to go away to train and compete because we are not funded and we didn’t race a lot of international regattas last year.
‘We were only put together very late in the season so we didn’t get funding for this year coming. They charge people who aren’t funding double the amount so we have to pay double what everyone else is paying, and that’s a lot of money.
‘We are self funded at the moment and it’s a big burden as we are training full time and it’s falling to our families to help fund us.
‘In three weeks’ time we are going to Italy to compete in the Piediluco International Regatta where we will be racing on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Off the back of that we have a ten-day training camp in Italy.
‘We come home then and for the next six or seven weeks we are getting ready for the European Championships in May, which will be highly competitive. If we get into the A final there, we will get funded off the back of that.’
So far there has been a terrific response to Denise and Claire’s gofundme.com page, with every donation helping the duo as they prepare for the Europeans where qualification for the A final there would be a massive boost, as the Skibbereen rower explains.
‘If we do well in the Europeans it will mean that we get funded and that will take some of the pressure off us,’ she said.
‘Our aim is to get a medal at the Europeans. Training is going well. We had more trials last weekend and we did really well, so it’s all systems go for the Europeans now, and to see where that takes us.’
After the Europeans, everything gears up for the senior world championships in Aiguebelette in France at the end of August, which double up as the Olympic qualifiers. A top 11 finish there is the golden ticket through to the Olympics in Rio next year.
It’s worth noting that an Irish women’s lightweight double has never qualified for the Olympics, so the pair could make history, if it all goes according to plan.
After being paired together last year, in their first international event Denise and Claire competed in the World Cup regatta in Aiguebelette where they finished fifth in the B final and 11th overall.
In the world rowing championships in Amsterdam, the duo won through to the C final and finished 14th out of the 21 boats in their event.
‘We really want to step it up a lot this year and we feel we are improving all the time,’ Denise said.
After moving to Kilmurry where she lives with her aunt – to be closer to the National Rowing Centre in Farran Wood for training – Denise is preparing for a hectic few weeks on the water ahead of a hugely important year.
• To support Denise and Claire’s fundraising efforts, go to www.gofundme.com/claireanddenise