BURTON rower Laura Wheeler has taken a major step towards the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after being selected to join the GB senior women’s team – with next month’s World Cup regatta at Eton Dorney now firmly in her sights.
Wheeler, 28, came through a gruelling selection process before a whirlwind past week has seen the former Leander and Burton rower quit her job to move down to Henley-on-Thames for full time training.
Wheeler said: “It’s a lot of hard work and a long slog to Rio.
“No-one would be here unless they didn’t have that goal as their main focus.”
Wheeler’s first target is selection for the second World Cup regatta in June as part of a developing women’s quad.
The former Abbot Beyne School pupil is quietly confident the women’s quad will get the nod – but is refusing to take her place for granted.
She said: “They (the GB selectors) do send more development crews, but as a team they are looking for gold medal standard.
“There’s a chance they wont send us if we are not quick enough.
“We have all shown the potential in various different ways.
“It’s now about getting the four of us to gel together, to improve our technique and find all those little gains which make an impact on the overall result.”
Inspiration is close at hand as Wheeler now trains at close quarters with world class athletes including Olympic gold medallist Helen Glover.
She said: “It makes it real when you have Olympic medallists there. It makes it seem achievable.
“If that’s your dream and you work hard to get it then this is what can happen.
“To see someone like that (Glover) achieve her dreams, it makes it more real.”
Wheeler earned her full call-up after being invited to join team GB on a training camp in January.
She competed in a long distance trial in February which secured her a place at the invitation only final trial in April, finishing 14th.
That led to a couple of days rest and recovery before a week and a half of crew formation and further testing.
Wheeler put in a solid performance on the 2000m ergo test, coming third in a time of six minutes, 43.4 seconds.
And last week the pharmacy assistant from Winshill received the GB call.
“It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind,” said Wheeler, who paid tribute to her former employer Dean and Smedley Family Pharmacy.
She said: “I’m really grateful to them. They’ve been really supportive.
“If they had not been so accommodating and so flexible I would not have been able to achieve a lot of the things I have achieved so far.”