British Paralympic rower Ellen Buttrick takes time out from training to aid Covid-19 response

ROUNDHAY para-rower Ellen Buttrick has revelled in leading the fightback against Covid-19 in her adoptive community.

Sunday, 23rd August 2020, 11:14 pm
Ellen Buttrick of Great Britain. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

The two-time world champion has always been passionate about charity work having volunteered for a refugee charity and worked with Girlguiding UK as a lifelong Brownie.

Buttrick is based in Henley to be close to British Rowing’s base at Caversham and when lockdown struck, she leapt to the aid of local elderly and vulnerable in a leading role.

The Paralympic hopeful is area co-ordinator of the Henley Mutual Aid Group and made sure no-one shielding went without shopping, prescriptions or support.

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Great Britain's Oliver Stanhope, James C. Fox, Giedre Rakauskaite, and Ellen Buttrick in action at the 2019 World Rowing Championships. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

“At the start of the shielding process, a lot of people felt they were fine but as it started to get worse, they relied on the group more and more,” said the 24-year-old.

“It’s been really good, we’ve created little communities within each street so if anyone needs anything they can just pop it in the WhatsApp group.

“We’ve got some amazing responses. My 97-year-old neighbour and his 87-year-old wife sent a lovely message saying how grateful they were that people were there for them.

“I grew up in a part of Leeds that used to have a good sense of community, so it’s nice to play a part in that.

“It definitely got in the way of my training – training took a back seat for a while. I’d interrupt Zoom yoga sessions to jump on my emails and check if anyone needed help.

“I wanted to help people and I’ve had some experience in charities so I felt I’d be able to do the role well.

“As someone who represents Great Britain in my sport as a full-time, funded athlete, I wanted to do something to help the country get through this.”

Buttrick is one of more than 1,100 athletes on UK Sport’s World Class Programme, funded by National Lottery, allowing her to train full-time.

Britain’s para-rowing squad are a tight-knit unit and opened up some of their home workouts so young people could see what the World Class Programme entails.

The Northumbria University graduate also led a group session with pioneering charity London Youth Rowing with 76 inner-city children taking part.

“It’s good to do something to keep kids engaged in sport – in normal times we go out on school visits and talk about what we do,” said Buttrick. “It was great to see children asking questions and interested in how we train as elite athletes. My number one source of support during lockdown has been my team-mates on the programme, so if ever I was feeling low I’d just ring one of them up for a chat.”

Buttrick joined the all-conquering PR4 mixed coxed four in 2018, playing her part in a run that has seen the boat scoop nine successive golds at world and Paralympic regattas.

Despite the Paralympics being postponed to 2021 due to Covid-19, Buttrick is determined to make the most of an extra year of preparation.

“When I came into the boat, I was the only new member so I knew I needed to keep the gold medal run going,” said Buttrick, who will be looking to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by GB and Northern Ireland athletes since National Lottery funding started in 1997. “We’re all really motivated to go to Tokyo and get our tenth gold medal. When we get there, it’ll be a special moment to celebrate coming out of this crisis.”

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