Rowing star Robbie Prosser roared to World U23 gold in a new world best time in Italy as his GB coxed four came from fourth at 500m to win their six-boat final by clear water.
The Llangattock oarsman’s crew raced home in a sizzling 6mins 02.90secs to break the 2000m benchmark in Varese, bettering the 11-year-old record by 0.11secs.
Having overhauled the US to win their heat by just four-tenths of a second, Old Monmothian Prosser and his boat knew they had a great chance of gold going into Friday’s final against the Americans, heat two winners Germany, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.
But being fourth with the US fifth and Germany sixth at 500m probably wasn’t in the script as a furious start saw Italy lead, although only 1/2L covered the field.
GB, with Wye rower Prosser at two, stuck to their task and powered through to hit the front at half-way, where the lead from the high-rating Italians was just four-hundreds of a second.
But the Brits kept on surging while their nearest rivals at 42 strokes a minute had nowhere to go, and with 500m to race the lead had blown out to a length, with the US closing on Italy in third.
And there was no stopping Bristol University student Prosser, Henry Pearson, Ben Hinves, Bruce Turnell and cox William Denegri in the final quarter, as they finished 1 1/3rd lengths to the good, with the US in silver, 2/3L up on Italy in bronze.
Robbie, along with 2021 world U23 medallist Iwan Hadfield, was part of Monmouth School’s 2019 National School’s and School’s Head class-winning 8.
And the Applied Anatomy undergraduate said making the U23 team, let alone winning world gold, has been a dream of his for the past four years.
“When I went to Bristol Uni I was asked what I wanted to achieve in the next three years – I said I wanted to row in the top Bristol boat, but I also felt I could represent Great Britain in the World Championships.
“I never thought it would actually happen. Now it has, it really is like a dream come true.”
It has been a long journey for Robbie, who almost missed trials for the world champs because of Covid and was often told as a youngster that he was too small to row at an elite level.
After picking up the virus while racing at Henley Regatta, Robbie thought he was “written off”, but had a stroke of luck when re-trials were called.
Robbie, who trains 12 times a week, said before the final: “Seat racing is incredibly high pressure, incredibly high intensity. Everyone is racing for their lives.I’m not the tallest guy ever. You wouldn’t look at me and say ‘you’re born to be a rower’.
“In fact, everyone in this boat is taller than me – one is 6ft 7in and I’m 6ft 1in. They also weigh a lot more than me. I was told I wasn’t big enough to do bigger stuff in rowing. I used my lack of size as something to prove people wrong by working hard.
“I’ve worked incredibly hard over the last three to four years to get here, so to be at the world championships now is amazing. I love rowing, I love going to training and being in a boat, I love rowing with my friends and going to the gym, and I really enjoy racing and competing.
“This was my dream and now I have achieved it. All that time and effort was 100 per cent worth it.”
Ed Bloomfield, Head Rowing Coach at the University of Bristol, said: “Robbie is easily the best athlete I’ve ever worked with and perhaps the best athlete we have ever had.
“He picked rowing, but I think he could’ve excelled at any sport.”
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