Published: 06:00, 09 September 2021
Rower Freddie Allinson has won a European gold medal – less than two years after a doctor told him he would never compete again.
A broken bone in his back, that had gone undiscovered for years, looked set to spell the end of Allinson’s ambitions in one of the most physically demanding sports around.
But, with the help of the Leander Club - the most successful club in Olympic history - Allinson recovered and last weekend was part of the Great Britain men’s eight who triumphed at the Under-23 European Championships in Poland.
“It will take a lot to wipe the smile off my face in the next few months,” said the 22-year-old, who lives in Charing.
“Twenty-three months ago, I was told I would never row again by a doctor and so for me to have made that accomplishment at the weekend is something I’m so happy about.
“I definitely wouldn’t have believed it was possible for most of the last two years, when I’ve been in and out of hospital having X-rays, CAT scans and MRIs.
“I’m quite tall and I think I grew very quickly when I was young and part of the bone in my back didn’t properly form, or formed quite weakly, and it broke a long time ago but I was completely unaware of it until two years ago when it flared up.
“My back was in agonising pain and the X-ray showed the broken vertebra.
“That’s why they thought I’d never row again because it was assumed I’d broken it recently.
“In fact, I’d had it for a very long time but it caused a lot of damage by becoming inflamed and angry.”
On leaving university a year ago, Allinson - who has Olympic ambitions - changed his training regime in a bid to ease the strain on his back, concentrating on swimming and cycling.
But an invitation from the Leander Club gave him a route back into rowing.
He said: “Luckily for me, they’re the most successful Olympic club in the world in terms of medals, they’re a powerhouse, and they offered to pay for my medical bills to let me have an MRI and medical intervention to try and help.
“That changed the game completely and brought me back into the sport.”
Great Britain qualified for the final as heat winners but a glitch in the start lights caught them out and saw them trail Romania by a quarter of a length.
A strong middle section moved them into the lead and they held off a surge from the Czech Republic crew to land gold.
“We lost a lot of distance at the beginning and our cox just told us not to panic, hold our heads and get the job done,” said Allinson, who won under-18 gold in 2017 and under-23 bronze two years ago.
“It was a feeling of ecstatic happiness when we crossed the line, and a lot of relief as well.
“After winning the heat on Saturday, there was a level of expectation on us, being from Britain, who are quite a big name in the rowing world.”
Allinson would like to thank the Peter Adams Trust in Ashford, who assisted his rowing with a personal improvement grant.
“They’ve been completely fundamental in helping me do all this,” he said.
“The grant helped with food, training equipment and kit and quite a lot of my physiotherapy sessions as well.
“None of it would have been possible without their help.”