Cardiff Connect, Our Alumni, Psychology

My Cardiff is… rowing down the Taff to Florida – and beyond

Photo by Naomi Baker
Photo by Naomi Baker

Rebecca Girling (BSc 2012) Member of the GB rowing team and XXXII Olympiad hopeful.

Arriving in the Welsh capital for the first time, Rebecca followed a well-trodden path for first year students. “I wanted to try something new,” she says. “So I went along to the Freshers’ Fair. I was approached by a girl who is now my best friend, and who told me I looked like a rower.”

Today, she is part of a new cohort of GB rowers hoping to maintain the squad’s proud tradition of international success.

“Curiosity got the better of me and I joined the rowing club,” Rebecca admits. “I’m absolutely terrible at throwing and catching but I just found that I seemed to be ok at rowing. I became addicted to the fitness, friendship and competition that rowing brings.” It also brought her closer to her adopted home city: “I loved rowing up the Taff to the Millennium Stadium, and into the beautiful Bute Park, before going back down the river into Cardiff Bay.”

Having won the elite pairs event at Henley Women’s Regatta in her second season, Rebecca decided to continue rowing with the support of Cardiff University’s high performance programme, training alongside established global competitors at the Sport Wales National Centre.

The experience paid off. She joined the GB rowing squad in 2016 and has competed in the 2017 World Championships in Florida. Beyond that? “My goal is Tokyo 2020. I’m driven to see how far I can go in the sport and that’s always the mindset I’ve adopted,” says Rebecca. “I never sat in Uni and said I wanted to go to the Olympics. It was just about giving it a go and progressing from there.”

Her undergraduate degree has shaped her sporting abilities in unexpected ways. “Psychology really helps me think about stress management and interaction with team mates,” she says.

It helps to define her on dry land, too. “Cardiff University helped me discover my two passions: rowing and social work. I’m a trained social worker and still work part time alongside my main occupation as a Lottery funded athlete.”