The Old Viking Society recently caught up with Ben Brockway (20W) to talk about his recent success at the U23 European Championships and his rowing journey so far.
From his earliest memories, Ben's fascination with rowing was evident. Inspired by his grandfather and father's passion for the sport, Ben eagerly anticipated the opportunity to row competitively.
Reflecting on his early days, Ben recalls, "I participated in the London Youth Games and the British Indoor Rowing Championships." His dedication was evident as he secured first and third places respectively in both events, fuelling his confidence and igniting his passion for the sport.
Joining Shiplake College in Year 9, Ben became a member of Welsh House and joined the rowing programme where he further honed his skills. Reflecting on the initial challenges, he remarked, "The learning process demanded time, patience, and relentless effort. I persisted with training even during holidays, recognising the significance of maintaining overall fitness."
"The presence of accomplished alumni at Shiplake, like Will Satch (07O), dedicated coaches, and a supportive school ethos played a crucial role in my journey," Ben emphasised, underlining the importance of a nurturing environment.
His team’s persistence paid off when his J16 boat clinched victory at the 2018 National Schools’ Regatta, the young crew subsequently achieving qualification for the Temple Challenge Cup at the prestigious Henley Regatta, an impressive feat when most crews in that category are from universities, with some school crews made up of sixth form rowers. "Rowing is both a team and individual sport. It’s a balance of the physical and the mental and it's about constantly striving towards your personal best" Ben reflected.
Following this success, Ben's rowing journey continued in the summer of 2018 as he qualified as part of a Shiplake coxed four to compete for GB in the annual J16 match against France, leaving an indelible mark despite not securing a victory. "It provided a valuable glimpse into the world I wanted to be part of one day," he shared, cherishing the experience.
Ben was soon in Shiplake’s 1st VIII and helped the College win the Schools’ Head of the River in March 2019, breaking the championship record in the process. They gained a silver medal at that year’s National Schools’ Regatta (the best in the school’s history at that time) and the crew also reached the semi-final at the 2019 Henley Royal Regatta, although lost to Eton who went on to win the competition. Ben's perseverance remained unscathed, including another representation for GB at 2019’s Coupe de la Jeunesse international rowing regatta, until the COVID-19 outbreak halted competitive rowing in 2020. This was a blow for Ben, the rowers and the College as they were favoured to have their most successful season to date.
Leaving Shiplake in 2020, after two years of travelling and overcoming an injury, Ben joined Newcastle University and recommitted to rigorous training, culminating in his selection for the Under 23 GB Eight. The Eight's remarkable Silver Medal victory at the European Championships in Krefeld, Germany, in August 2023 stands testament to his unwavering determination.
Looking ahead, Ben remains focused on his ambitions, aiming for a spot in the GB boat for the World Championships in Ontario, Canada, in August 2024. With the ultimate dream of participating in the Olympics, Ben emphasises the significance of taking each step, each goal at a time.
Sharing valuable advice for aspiring rowers, Ben focusses on maintaining resilience and a positive mindset. "Hold onto your goals, learn from setbacks, and foster a supportive team environment. Remember, hard work trumps talent when talent doesn't work hard," he concluded, delivering a positive message of perseverance and teamwork.
As Ben sets his sights on the 2024 GB U23 World Championships, we extend our heartfelt wishes for his continued success in his illustrious rowing career.