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Golden girls inspire thousands into boats

It has already led to an upsurge in cycling since Sir Chris Hoy's double gold medal achievements and Bradley Wiggins's success at London 2012.

But the "Olympic halo effect" that has driven Scots into the saddle and to join sports clubs in unprecedented numbers is now being felt on the water as well.

Scottish Rowing, the sport's national representative body, says that since Scottish oarswomen Katherine Grainger and Heather Stanning won gold medals at Eton Dorney, 1000 people have climbed into a boat for the first time.

Especially popular are learn-to-row classes at Grainger's home club, Edinburgh's venerable St Andrew Boat Club, which was founded in 1846 and lays claims to being Scotland's oldest open amateur club.

Amanda Cobb, rowing development manager at Scottish Rowing, said: "Clubs get new enquiries every day from adults and juniors alike who want to learn to row because they've been so inspired by Heather's and Katherine's success. We've never seen anything like this level of interest in rowing before."

Glasgow-born Ms Grainger won gold in the double sculls, partnered by Anna Watkins, while Gordonstoun-educated Ms Stanning, a captain in the Royal Artillery, took gold in the women's coxless pairs partnered by Helen Glover.

Speaking ahead of tonight's Scottish Rowing Awards in which she is nominated with Ms Stanning, Ms Grainger spoke of her amazement at the sudden popularity of the sport.

"It's unbelievable. I'd never have dreamed winning a gold medal would have had such an impact, but it's a brilliant feeling knowing that it has.

"This news is just the icing on the cake to what's been a fantastic year – to think that a whole new generation of rowers have started as a result of the Olympics is incredible, and I can only hope that we can keep the momentum going over the next four years in the build-up to Rio."

Ms Stanning, meanwhile, noted that her rowing partner Helen Glover only took up the sport four years ago. "So you never know what'll happen by the time Rio comes round – Scotland could well be harbouring a future Olympic champion at this very minute."

Hailing rowing as "a fantastic sport, no matter whether you do it at an elite level or just recreationally", she added: "I couldn't believe it when I heard about all the people who've wanted to take it up since the Olympics. It's not something that ever occurred to me, the effect that winning would have in inspiring so many people of all generations."

The awards take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow. Ms Grainger is nominated for the International Rower of the Year Award alongside Ms Stanning and Aviemore-born David Smith, who won gold in the LTA Mixed Coxed Four at the Paralympics and has previously represented Great Britain at karate and bobsleigh.

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