Indoor rowing: Johnson pulls in British title

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Competing in the British national event at the NEC in Birmingham at the weekend he finished first in the 2,000m in a personal best time of 6 min 28 sec, two seconds ahead of his nearest rival, to take the British crown in the 16-year-old category.Ali Meredith, Johnson’s trainer, travelled with him.’The atmosphere at the NEC was absolutely electric.

Mike had been ill last week – he was off school for a couple of days – so he hadn’t had the best preparation.’We went into one of the warm-up rooms so he could have a bit of time to himself and start warming up, then James Cracknell came in to warm up as well, and he was followed by loads of people, press and TV!’Once he got going in the race proper, though, Johnson was fine and soon got into his rhythm.Said Johnson: ‘It was the hardest race I’ve ever done, especially after having flu last week, but I wasn’t too nervous, in fact I was pretty chilled with Ali there to calm me down.’I was ready , and really up for it and in good shape.’Once the race was under way I wasn’t really aware of anything else.

Concentrating so hard, everything else goes out of the window.”Steve Redgrave signed a picture for me and wrote:To Mike, good luck with the race.

It was pretty amazing to be able to talk to my heroes.’ ‘I want to break the British record before I’m 17.

I have until July, so plenty of time.

I might try and do that in January.’Meredith said he sat in the audience, directly in front of Johnson’s machine and so was able to communicate to him about his progress.’He went out far faster than I had told him to, but it had the advantage that he was ahead of the others all the way.

He was visibly tiring towards the end but his lead was enough to keep him in front and he won by two seconds.

His illness certainly affected his finish but he was fantastic.

He put in a really gutsy and impressive performance, and it’s only the second time he has ever competed.’When he was presented with his medal, Johnson was also interviewed on stage – in front of the huge crowds – about his rowing.’While the races are going on there are press people wandering round to see how the competitors are doing, especially when the big names are involved – both Cracknell and Pinsent were competing in another event – and those who know about the sport realised that there was this new kid on the block, from Jersey, who has been racking up fantastic average times.’With Johnson’s success, and another local indoor rower, Ged Chapman, breaking the half marathon record in his age category just last week, Meredith spoke to event organisers while he was in Birmingham with a view to holding an event in Jersey in the near future.’With people like Steve Redgrave interested in the development of the sport, something along the lines of a Jersey Open event could bring lots of people over to take part,’ he said.

‘So if anyone out there is interested in rowing I’d be pleased to hear from them to see what we can organise.’Ali Meredith may be contacted at Club Carrefour, telephone 865555.

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