Success, not diversity

lettertotimesIn a recent article in The Times (“You need brass to go for gold“), Matthew Syed claims that sports such as rowing are not as competitive as other sports because you need to have a lot of financial backing to participate in them.

We like to kid ourselves that Sir Steve Redgrave is the greatest British sportsman in history so far, for winning five successive golds in rowing — a sport so elitist that it is virtually non-existent across much of the planet. I suspect that Redgrave would not have qualified for a single Olympic final, let alone won any, had rowing been accessible to, say, 1 per cent of the population of Africa — a continent that dominates running, for which the only equipment needed is decent shoes.

Member Peter Rossi, who learned to row on Putney Town’s beginners course wrote to The Times (“Success, not diversity“) to set the record straight.

Sir, As a club rower on the Thames, I was disappointed to read Matthew Syed’s article (“You need brass to go for gold”, times2, Feb 10). Sure, posh people row, but so do “ordinary” people.

My club on the Thames runs regular learn-to-row courses costing £100 for 12 weeks for complete beginners. Monthly membership costs £25 thereafter. I cannot think of too many sports that let you use equipment worth thousands of pounds at your leisure for that amount.

My club is not unique in this respect. This compares extremely favourably with sports such as cycling, which requires significant individual investment in equipment.

Peter Rossi
London SW4

Putney Town’s last learn to row course was a more intense six week program run late last year and was a huge success. If you are interested in learning to row, you can sign up on the learn to row page to be informed of the next course in 2010.