Shelley Pearson – First Female Bermudian Rower in the Olympics?

Shelley Pearson, three seat, in Oxford women's winning crew in 2015.
Shelley Pearson, three seat, in Oxford women’s winning crew in 2015.

On 25 November, The Royal Gazette, of Bermuda, reported in an article* that 24-year-old Shelley Pearson has her mind set to represent the island in rowing at the Olympic Games in Rio next year. If she would succeed, Pearson would be the first woman from Bermuda to row in the Olympic Games, but not the first Bermudian to row, or actually scull, in the Olympics. Last time it happened was at the 1972 Olympics when James ‘Jim’ Butterfield sculled in a single scull, coming in fifth in his first heat and then last in the repechage, ending up at the 14th place total. (In 2004, Jim Butterfield’s son, Tyler, at age 21, was the youngest male triathlete to compete at the Olympic Games.)

Pearson has a successful background in rowing, becoming a junior world champion in the eights with the U.S. team in 2009. She was also a member of the 2015 Oxford crew in The Boat Race that wrote history by becoming the first women’s boat to win the race on the same distance as the men on the championship course on the Thames between Putney and Mortlake.

However, her career has not been going on a straight course. At Harvard College, Pearson was injured and for two years she was fighting an aneurysmal bone cyst, having to have several surgeries.

Then when she was training hard for the final trials for the UK National Championships in April 2014, she had another injury, which forced her to take a break from rowing. But Pearson managed to come back for the 2015 Boat Race.

“I can remember the moment I fell in love with the sport,” Pearson told The Royal Gazette. “I felt all the athletes in the boat rowing in perfect harmony. It was as if we were gliding weightlessly on top of the water. The moment you’ve experienced that feeling, it’s what you constantly strive toward.”

Reaching the Rio Olympics, Pearson has to do well at the Latin American Qualifiers in Chile in March next year. Luckily, she has not only the support from her parents, the Bermuda-based insurance company Horseshoe Group has stepped in to lift off the economic burden of going to training camps and having the right equipment.

“For that I am so grateful and honoured that Horseshoe Group would put their confidence in me,” Pearson said to The Royal Gazette.

HTBS will follow Pearson’s quest for Olympic participation with interest.

*The Royal Gazette article seems to be based on an article on the website of Boston Children’s Hospital.

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