Otley player's Olympic rowing dream

Ilkley Gazette: Alex Ball training with the Bradford Bulls Alex Ball training with the Bradford Bulls

Otley rugby player Alex Ball is dreaming of Olympic glory after taking up rowing.

The 23-year-old is currently combining the two sports, but is expected to hang up his boots as he chases his dream of competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Ball turned to rowing by chance after a chronic back problem cut short a 18-month spell with the Bradford Bulls.

He had been introduced to the Super League club by Otley’s interim director of rugby Ryan Duckett, the former chief executive at Odsal.

Duckett said: “I knew him from my previous spell at Otley. Alex is extremely strong and always performed well in physical test at the Bulls.

“I am not surprised that he has done so well at rowing so quickly. I am also pleased that he will continue to play in our pack until the rowing season gets under way.”

The 6ft 5in powerhouse, who weighs more than 18 stone and hails from Penistone in South Yorkshire, has made a dramatic impact since taking up rowing.

“A friend of mine asked me to come down to his rowing club because he’d seen my height and physique and thought I could be a decent guy to go in a boat with,” said Headingley-based Ball.

“I went down to Bradford Rowing Club with my friend and the coach was quite impressed.

“There is a ‘learn to row’ group which I was supposed to join and runs for four months. But I just bypassed that completely, did a bit with the senior squad and the coach then contacted a guy from British Rowing.

“He said ‘I’ve got a guy you should take a look at’, so I did some 250-metre tests which were a second quicker than anyone in my age and half a second faster than anyone who had tested before.

“I then got invited to another round of testing in Doncaster and two days later they called me and said they would like me to join the Great Britain Start programme.

“That began at the start of December and they put you forward with the name of a club, whether that be Doncaster or Bradford, and you train with them every day.”

Ball is an awesome physical specimen and rowing would appear to complement his huge frame perfectly.

He is rowing individually and as part of a pair and has already recorded a British record for 1km, which he hopes to make official in the near future, as well as records at 100, 300 and 500 metres.

He has also flourished in power testing, largely due to his strong rugby background, and has set his sights of making it to the very top.

Ball’s problem is that his rowing commitments are unfunded and he is seeking sponsorship to help him pursue his Olympics dream of making the GB for 2016.

“I’m living off what little savings I’ve got from rugby and trying to find some sponsorship while I’ve still got this in the bank,” he said.

“Helen Glover was on the start programme two years before the London Olympics and she won gold in the rowing in 2012.

“Winning gold in Rio would be the dream.

“That’s a massive ask, and there a lot of things that could prevent that, but that’s my goal.

“I’ve written to a couple of development funds and a few local businesses as I need to find some sort of sponsorship.”

To enquire about sponsoring Ball as he chases his Olympic dream, e-mail him on aceball@btinternet.com

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