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With a streak of wins behind her, 14-year-old Gauri Kotera is now among the top five rowers under 16, in the state of NSW.
The Penrith Selective High School student took gold in the single, double and quad events at the 2020 Central District Rowing Association Sprints Championships; a gold and a bronze at the NSW State Combined High School Championships, and two bronze medals at the recent NSW State Sprints Championships.
The state win puts her in competition at the National Championships to be held at WA next year.
“I’ll be competing with the best rowers in the country,” Gauri told Indian Link. “I’m keen to see how far this will take me.”
The Year 9 student was introduced to rowing only two years ago, as an extra-curricular activity.
“I had never been on a river in a rowing boat before and it was scary but completely thrilling.”
She added, “At first it was just nice to be out on the water, relaxing, in touch with nature. Then I started competing – and winning – and that drew me in further. Plus my team is very supportive, being around them is good.”
Penrith of course is home to some of the best rowing facilities in the world and hosts national and international regattas.
As an elite athlete though, doing the hard yards is par for course.
While Gauri competes on the weekends, she practices every afternoon, with gym three times a week – juggling it all with schoolwork.
Support comes through from a variety of sources, coaches, teammates, even family.
Gauri picked for special mention a personal mentor, national-level rower Annelise Isaacs. “Annelise is currently rising through the ranks, and I’ve learned much having rowed with her. I aspire to compete with her one day.”
Her parents of course are an integral part of her rowing life.
“I’m grateful for the support my parents give me,” she acknowledged. “They’re up early driving me around. Like me, they’ve had to learn everything about the sport from scratch, not having grown up with it. It’s great for me to look up sometimes as I row – amidst the pressure and the pain – to see them shouting out my name from the shores.”
Mum Charu Kotera chimed in, “Yes it was a new experience for us, I’m not even a swimmer! When she showed an interest I actually suggested she should stick to the group events so she wouldn’t have to get out there on the water on her own! But she showed natural ability, so we gave her our full support.”
Charu agreed rowing is an unusual sport in our community. Among other things, our women particularly don’t have the physique for it, although Gauri already stands at 5’9″.
“Rowing requires good upper body strength, and for Gauri, it’s something that needed to be built up. It’s typical of us as a race: we are good at leg work, but not upper body. And yet Gauri is getting there, with her regimented routine.”
Gauri herself admits that the physical endurance aspect of her sport is the hardest part of it. “But I enjoy my practice sessions and gym,” she said with characteristic honesty.
And the best thing about rowing?
“Doing something I’m good at, being able to challenge myself, becoming better, and enjoying the fruit of the hard work that I get along the way.”
We’ll be watching her career with great interest.
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