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History has been made at Leander Club with the announcement that the world’s most successful and prestigious rowing club has just appointed its first female captain.
Double Olympic silver medallist Debbie Flood, of Deanfield Road, Henley, will take over the crucial role at the club on 1 January, following the three year’s captaincy of Rick Egington, who secured Olympic silver and bronze as a member of the GB men’s eight in Beijing and London.
“It’s a fantastic honour – Leander is my home, it’s where I came of age in rowing, and I’ve carried out my entire senior career within the club” said Debbie.
She acknowledged that she had big steps to follow – other captains within the last ten years have included Olympic champions Steve Williams, Mark Hunter and James Cracknell.
“I just want to get involved in the heart of the club, to be a good role model and to keep the club progressing. I want to continue to integrate the whole group of internationals and development athletes, so that the younger ones can aspire to the achievements of GB team and feel that if they’ve got what it takes to get into Leander then they’ve got a path forward to achieve” she said.
Debbie, 32, was a GB junior judo international and county level 1500m and cross–country runner and shot–putter in her native Yorkshire before she took up rowing, and her strength and athletic ability ensured rapid progress.
Since then her parents Bar (sic) and John, and younger brother Barry, all based in Guiseley, Yorkshire, have been keen followers of her international progress. A junior world bronze in 1998 was followed immediately by double U23 golds in the following years, and promotion to the senior GB team in 2001. Since then she has won three world titles and two Olympic silvers, in Athens and Beijing, as a consistent member of the GB women’s quad.
Throughout her career her Christian beliefs have underpinned much of what she has achieved in rowing and her working life outside the sport.
“God has given me these abilities and let me use them, and it’s my responsibility to try and inspire others to achieve and act as a role model in schools and churches” said Debbie, who is now a member of Greyfriars Church in Reading.
The new Leander captain will return to work at Huntercombe Prison in July, and is currently working with exercise guru Lizzie Webb in Creativity in Sport, a programme designed to use sport to help younger people with troubled backgrounds engage back into society.
Debbie Flood’s appointment as Captain has been greeted with acclaim at Leander, where chief coach Mark Banks, who has coached the Olympian for the last ten years, was especially pleased.
“Debbie’s election as the first female captain in almost 200 years is a historic landmark for the club. It wasn’t that long ago that women were first elected to club membership, but our women athletes are now a core part of our sporting endeavours, with more than their fair share of medals at every level” he said.
“Debbie will bring special qualities to this role, where it’s so important to inspire the younger athletes as they take their first steps in this very high-performing environment” he said.
“Leander is unique in combining so much international talent with less experienced juniors, all under one roof, and the role of captain is to bring those groups together. There’s always the possibility that the younger guys could feel overawed by the success of their seniors, but the captain’s role is to help nurture and inspire the development athletes to improve their own performance, and Debbie is ideally placed to do just that” he added.