Paralympic champions visit Stratford-upon-Avon to celebrate Club of the Year success

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Paralympic champions Ellen Buttrick and Alice Tai were on hand to help Stratford-upon-Avon Boat Club celebrate their coronation as Parasport’s Club of the Year for 2020.

The easing of Covid restrictions allowed the Warwickshire outfit to finally mark the prestigious award in person in September and it was a day to remember on the Avon as Buttrick and Tai took part in a rowing session alongside club members.

Buttrick, back in a boat for the first time since winning gold as part of the mixed PR3 coxed four team in Tokyo, hailed the club’s importance in the local community and hopes their inclusive ethos will inspire others to follow in her footsteps and take up the sport.

“I think a club like this is really important for people trying to get into rowing,” she said.

“If you live in this area, you'll be walking down the river or going on a stroll, you'll see people rowing, and you'll see people like you who are rowing.

“Not many people get to see that. I just saw a bit of rowing on TV and that's why I signed up to do it.

“But to have so many adaptive rowers out on the river right now is amazing because you can only be what you can see. It's really, really cool that they're able to do that.”

Stratford-upon-Avon Boat Club won last year’s Club of the Year title – powered by Toyota – after a public vote having been named October 2020’s Club of the Month, with their humorous campaigning efforts capturing plenty of attention.

And adaptive head coach Mark Dewdney, who founded the section in 2015 and has since seen it grow from two rowers to 15 with more on a waiting list, believes the accolade has only enhanced their reputation.

“We seem to be much more known about since we got the title,” he said.

“There has been an almost constant stream of inquiries from people wanting to start, not just in Stratford but across the surrounding area.

“We got a little bit of prize money as part of the overall Parasport Club of the Year prize and we've used that for various adaptions for boats, so it has expanded the amount of kit we can use.”

Steve Binns, one of the rowers who has been there from the start of the programme, added: “To have been voted Club of the Year has increased the profile of the club and we've just seen an influx of people.”

Binns went out on the water alongside Tai and Buttrick, with the swimmer – a seven-time world champion who topped the Paralympic podium at Rio 2016 – left wishing such chances had been open to her as a youngster.

Tai said: “It’s honestly amazing – the amount of opportunities they have for people with disabilities to get on the water and try the sport and just the way that everything is adapted so well.

“I wanted to do rowing when I was younger but we didn't have a local club with facilities, so to see there are clubs like this that exist now is awesome.”

Joining Buttrick and Tai in dodging the swans along the Avon were representatives from Listers Toyota, with Joseph Hawkins blown away by what he saw.

“When you get here and explore the building, you understand how much is going on, how many boats there are and how many members there are – it is really quite impressive,” he said.

“It is a no brainer that Toyota as a brand sponsor it and for us as a dealership to play our part in supporting it in any way we can.”

Congratulations to Stratford-upon-Avon Boat Club for their success - and if you’d like your club to be considered for a Club of the Month award in 2023, remember you need to registered on the Parasport website.

There are two ways to get your inclusive events visible on Parasport:  

1. If you use an OpenActive enabled booking system to manage your activities and online bookings, the process is easy - just click here to get taken through the steps.

2. If you don't use an OpenActive enabled system, or don't use a system at all, you can upload your events directly to Parasport by registering here.