A RISING rowing star from Uttoxeter is bidding for Olympic glory as she excels on a talent programme which produced five gold medallists at London 2012.
However, Stella d’Arch Smith, of Stafford Road, may have a massive decision to make if she makes the GB rowing team in the upcoming trials as she has also been accepted to Sandhurst, hoping to join the Royal Engineers in the British Army.
The 22-year-old became involved in the sport after spotting an advert for ‘tall and talented’ people to get involved with the Start Programme run by GB rowing, which has produced the likes of Olympic champions Helen Glover, Anna Watkins and Heather Stanning.
Engineering graduate d’Arch Smith told the Advertiser: “The advert said you had to be aged between 15 and 22 and taller than 180cm. I answered the ad and it went from there.
“I’m really coming into my own now. At my club — Agecroft Rowing Club in Manchester — I hold the club records for the 5km and 2km tests on the rowing machine.
“We have to go to testing camps each month to see our progress and I am the fastest woman of 2012 at those camps.
“It is the GB trials in November to get into the senior GB team and I will be up against everyone, including those who have just been to the Olympics.
“If I show progress at the trials they could begin using me within the next year with Rio in 2016 the ultimate goal.”
To reach that goal d’Arch Smith, who worked around her university studies in Liverpool as a lifeguard at Uttoxeter Leisure Centre, has had to give her life to rowing.
For her to realise her Olympic dream she now desperately requires some financial support.
She said: “I train a minimum of twice a day, six days a week but it can stretch to three times a day, seven days a week.
“I had to make the big decision to move to Manchester which was difficult at the time but I had to be there to get where I wanted to go.
“Being away from family is not the difficult thing it is more the financial situation. You don’t have anytime to work as training is so hard and I’m not getting any direct funding at the moment.
“I need help to support my training, travel and just general living.
“I would also like to be in a position to buy my own equipment.
“It would make a massive difference if I could buy my own boat but even a second-hand boat would be an incredible help.”
November sees d’Arch Smith taking part in the GB trials but with a place at Sandhurst waiting with the Royal Engineers she has a lot of thinking to do.
She said: “I’m still due to go in January but if my trials go well I am going to have a huge, lifechanging decision to make.
“It is obviously a huge decision as financially I would have a career waiting for me so to know I could have support from sponsors would make it much easier.”
Anyone who thinks they can help or would like to follow d’Arch Smith’s progress she is contactable through Facebook at www.facebook.com/rowingstella, on Twitter where her username is @stella_darch or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.