THIS month we are delighted to award our November prize to Commonwealth Games rowing double-gold medallist, Francesca Rawlins, who is using CurraNZ on her trailblazing comeback from illness, following a year on the sidelines in 2015/16.
The London-based lightweight rower, who has been using CurraNZ this year, heralded her return to form earlier this month, when winning the British Rowing Team’s first assessment in Lincolnshire. The assessments are held monthly until April to determine GB selection for the 2018 World Championships in Bulgaria.
Then two weeks ago, Francesca beat last year’s Under-23 World Champion Charlotte Hodgekins-Byrne to claim the British Amateur Sculling Championship, the Wingfields Sculls, in London. This prestigious side-by-side single sculls race has been held on the Thames championship course since 1830.
Francesca’s goal is to represent Great Britain again next summer, but this time, faces the much bigger challenge of juggling a full-time job as a medical researcher at King’s College Hospital with her seven-day-a-week training schedule.
The change in her work-sport balance has also precipitated a move from Leander Club in Henley to Chiswick-based Tideway Scullers School, which was essential for her to combine her busy rowing schedule with her job in London.
The 31-year-old says: “I was previously a full-time athlete for almost three years when rowing for Leander, which is where the majority of GB rowers are based. I was doing this alongside part-time work in medical research.”
“Over the past year I’ve pulled back from the GB trials to focus on my career and am now in London working full-time for King’s College Hospital, so have to fit in training around my work.”
With a degree from Cambridge University in Natural Sciences, specialising in biological and biomedical sciences and a Masters in Developmental Cellular Biology, Francesca works on the cutting-edge 100,000 Genomes Project, the largest national sequencing project of its kind in the world. The ground-breaking initiative aims to analyse genomes from 70,000 NHS patients with cancer and rare diseases to build a database with the goal of helping the medical community to identify new treatments for these diseases where previously before there were none.
Looking back on her rowing career, she says: “It was incredibly intense being a full-time athlete, because it can become your sole focus and that is difficult at times. Now I’m working full-time and training, I can’t put in the time that the national team can, but the flipside is I have another focus outside of rowing, which is a definitely a good thing.
“Now I have to be quite clever fitting in daily training around work and row both days at the weekend too – it’s nice to see some daylight on the water twice a week!”
“At the moment I’m really enjoying my sport, it is exciting getting out on the water in my single again and I am having fun with it, I’m very happy to be back.”
Francesca learned to row while studying at Cambridge University, where she raced as a lightweight and notably, went on to captain the Women’s Lightweight (CUWBC) eight to an historic win against Oxford in 2008 (pictured, above).
With the need as a lightweight rower to keep her weight down to between 57kg-61.1kg (summer vs winter racing weights), she used CurraNZ in the run-up to the first trial and has found it useful for the periods when she needed to cut weight.
“I started using CurraNZ from fairly early on this season and used them in my last couple of races. I’ve been feeling fresher on race day, which is probably to a great extent because I am recovering better. I’ve used it in the build-up to races and it’s helped me be on top of my game.
“We have to be careful about our nutrition, and something that supports us in the way that CurraNZ does is vital. It’ll be really interesting to put the fat-burning benefits to the test next year when I need to drop to my summer racing weight again.”
Next month, Francesca is looking forward to racing at the British trials, when she’ll get another chance to pit herself against the women she previously raced against when training full-time at Leander and those who went to the World Champs this year.
“It’s great to be back and I’m looking forward to getting out and racing as much as I can and importantly having fun while doing it, which seems to be the key to success at the moment.”
“I’m pleased to have dropped back into racing my single at a level where I’m competitive with some of the top club athletes in the country, but there are greater tests to come when I face the current GB team. I think all athletes are pushing to better themselves and I’m no exception, I’m excited to see what I can achieve this season.”