Holly Hill seeking race pace with the Great Britain eight
Former CUWBC rower has sights on European glory
After the uncertainty of the spring, Holly Hill believes she is now onto a sure thing for the forthcoming major rowing regattas.
The 24-year-old Light Blue is part of Great Britain’s women’s eights for the European Championships in Glasgow from August 2 to 5, with the World Rowing Championships then following in Bulgaria from September 9 to 16.
The eight have started to hit their stride since stepping out of their smaller boats to form one crew, with fourth in the second World Cup Regatta in Austria and a narrow loss to Australia in the Remenham Challenge Cup final at Henley Royal Regatta.
It is a far cry from the late winter/early spring for Hill, who had suffered a setback having initially performed well at the first two national assessments in December and February.
A dizzy spell after a training session could not be pinned down, and saw Hill was forced to miss the final trials in April.
“I fainted after a training session,” said the former Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club rower. “I went through a period of not being able to do much training without feeling a little bit dizzy.
“I don’t know exactly what I had. British Rowing and the national training team have been brilliant, the EIS [English Institute of Sport] guys had a really good look at me and all the medical staff have been excellent in helping me get back
“But it was a case of just waiting and trying to see how long I needed really to recover before I could come back because nothing really showed up that was a medical diagnosis, it was so weird.
“It was horrible. At one point, after six weeks, I thought is this ever going, am I going to be able to row again because it didn’t have a diagnosis.
“I didn’t have a timescale. If you break your arm, you say ‘eight weeks and I’ll be back. I will have to do some more press-ups to get strong again, but that’s roughly what I’m working towards’.
“This time, it was so strange. I just really relied on the support of everyone around me on the team and the medical side to keep my head up really.
“At one stage, I just wasn’t sure what my body was doing. It had been so good for 24 years and then it just went a little bit crazy on me, but it seems to have come back now.”
It is a change of scenery in many ways for Hill, who partnered fellow old Blue Melissa Wilson in the pair at last year’s world championships.
Having moved to Caversham to train full time with the national squad, the focus has shifted slightly, with the longer-term goal of the Tokyo Olympic qualification regatta in 2019, and getting the eight to Japan.
“This year, it’s almost like getting a practice in for that,” said Hill.
“We’ve made an eight out of the squad here and we’re going to try to see if we can practise trying to qualify essentially, so next year we know what we’re doing and we’ve spent a bit of time in the boat.
“The idea was that earlier on in the season we would spend time in the smaller boats for a bit longer.
“That really allows you to get racing practice and good training in, in a smaller crew because you get a bit more technical input and you can feel the boat a little bit more.
“As there are only a couple of people around you, depending if you’re in a four or a pair, it makes it a little bit more nerve-wracking and you don’t have a cox telling you what to do so it’s quite good for your own personal development.”
Although they still dip in and out of the small boats at times, the focus is on the eight as they get closer to the European and world championships.
“We’ve still got a fair way to go in terms of what we want to hit for race pace in the world championships, but I would say we know in our heads mentally and physically where we are now and what we need to do,” said Hill.
“In a sense we’re prepared, even though we know we’ve got to put the work in over the next few months to make sure we hit it on the day.”
The squad are now set for one-and-a-half months at training camps and competitions, which will give them a chance to bond even more.
And Hill added: “We’re feeling quite positive about using this next block, and in the lead up to worlds we always know that we can make a big change in these next six weeks.
“We did it last year so we know we can do it again this year, and that’s quite exciting.”