Warwick Boat Club member wins silver in rowing world championships - without even leaving her living room

The indoor championships, which were to have been held in a huge velodrome in Paris, were called off because of the Covid pandemic

Olivia Joyce has won a silver medal the World Indoor Rowing Championships. Photo supplied
Olivia Joyce has won a silver medal the World Indoor Rowing Championships. Photo supplied

Olivia Joyce, who took up rowing at Warwick Boat Club only five years ago, has won a silver medal the World Indoor Rowing Championships – without leaving her living room.

The 31-year-old won her medal with a personal best time of one minute 40.9 seconds in the women’s lightweight (30 -39 age category) final in the four-day championships in which 935 rowers competed from 63 countries.

Sign up to our daily WarwickshireWorld Today newsletter

The indoor championships, which were to have been held in a velodrome in Paris were called off because of the pandemic.

Instead a global virtual event was held in real time with live races across several time zones.

Competitors plugged their rowing machines (ergos) into a laptop and logged in for their race. The screen gave a countdown to the start and the organisers could detect whether or not there was a false start.

During the races the rowers could see on screen how many metres they were in front or behind other rowers.

“The silver lining of the lockdown was that I was able to work from home,” said Olivia. “I trained between 60 minutes and 90 minutes every day with one day off a week. The training

was mainly, strength, weights and cardio.

“The biggest part of my training was to lose weight to get into the lightweight category, otherwise I would have been competing against women up to 30kg heavier than me who would be about 10 seconds faster.

“So I pushed my body really hard when eating a maximum of only 1,700 calories a day. But it was worth it – I lost six kilograms to make the 61.5 kilogram limit, including rowing kit.

“I used the living room to train on the ergo so I had to move the sofas out of the way and make sure I left the windows open because it got so hot.”

Olivia, who works for the engineering department at Warwick University, said: “The 500 metres is a short race so you have to train to go flat out from the start and settle into a really high rate.

"I practised over 600 to 700 metres so I could treat it as sprint. A fast start is vital so I practised the start for hours and hours.”

She added: “It was fantastic to get the silver because I achieved a massively improved time to get my personal best. It really mattered because there was only two-tenths of a second

between me and the rower who came fourth.

“I must admit I missed competing in Paris with all the adrenalin, the cheering of colleagues, and the presentation on a podium - instead I got the medal in the post.

"After the race at home I just had a shower and walked the dog.”

Within three years of completing a learn-to-row course at Warwick Boat Club – which also caters for tennis, squash and bowls – Olivia was competing with a crew at the Women’s Henley Regatta.

Last December she won a gold medal in the British Rowing Indoor Championships with a personal best of 1.41.4.

She said: “A few weeks later I shaved one-tenth of a second off that time, submitted a video for the world championships, and got into the top 10 fastest rowers in order to qualify for the event.

"But improving my personal best by another half a second in the actual world final was massive for me.”

Sam Wesley, Women’s rowing captain, said: “Olivia’s success is outstanding and could only be achieved at this level with her dedication and commitment to a brutal training programme.

"Definitely worth the entire Victoria sponge cake she ate to celebrate."