STATES-BOUND star Lily Abbott says swapping Kingston for Carolina is the perfect next step to propel her career in the water to new heights.
The Teddington rowing ace discovered the sport at Kingston Grammar School and is this year embarking on an ambitious trip across the pond to North Carolina’s Duke University.
Abbott was a member of the British boat at the Coupe de la Jeunesse before lockdown and has been hitting the training hard at Tideway Scullers while competitive action is on hold.
She’s enrolling at Duke in August and reckons superior American funding can be the spark to ignite her career.
The 18-year-old, who is financially supported by a three-year partnership between Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, and SportsAid, said: “I’m excited. It’s a long time away from home, but it will be really good.
“I had a Zoom call with my incoming class the other day which was really nice in terms of meeting people. Everyone came from all over the place, so that was pretty cool.
“The US universities do generally have a lot more money for funding than in the UK universities. And that’s great, because it means you get so much support.
“There’s a lot of academic and athletic balance – because student athletes are viewed so highly in lots of universities and because of funding, you generally get a lot more support.
“Athletics and academics work alongside each other really well. It’s just a completely different environment.
“I think that’s great. And the amount of support you get from coaches – they can do everything to a super high standard, when we’re still relatively young.
“It will be really cool – we get to go all over the country to race and I think the team culture is great.”
Abbott’s career in the water is powered by a partnership between Entain and SportsAid, set up in 2019 and part of the company’s innovative Pitching In initiative.
Abbott, 18, is one of 51 SportsAid-supported athletes sponsored by Entain’s innovative Pitching In initiative
The sustained support helps Abbott access funding for training, travel, equipment and mentoring and the Tideway Scullers ace has taken full advantage throughout her current gap year.
Abbott has been picking the brains of friend Olivia Von Stauffenberg – who is currently studying at Duke – while several of her other teammates have starred on the competitive States rowing scene.
Abbott will be one of up to 50 rowers in the Duke squad and added: “It will be nice to be around so many like-minded people.
“It’s nice because I have friends who have done the same thing and who are a bit older.
“It’s nice that they can give me some advice. I’ve got one friend who’s at Duke already, so that’s quite cool as I can ask her any questions. We’re both in touch with the coaches and know each other well.
“They’ve had a few girls that have gone on to the Under-23 World Championships, so that will be good.
“I think the US is a good pathway. There are other girls doing the same thing, so I’m sure it will work well.”
Abbott was forced to self-isolate for 14 days just before Christmas after a coronavirus outbreak when she was training in Cambridge.
The Teddington talent is hoping this year’s Henley Regatta takes place in July
The absence of races is a source of frustration but the Teddington talent is raring to get back to competitive action.
The prestigious Henley Regatta remains scheduled for July and Abbott, who has been restricted to training with just one other person over the last few months, said: “Training’s been good, but it was annoying we had to shut down because of Covid.
“Two single boats can go out together, so at least we’ve been able to do something over the break.
“I’d definitely be looking at Under-23 Worlds over the next few years – that would be a clear goal of mine.
“I don’t have any specific years or goals for my pathway yet, but U23s is definitely the next goal. We’ll just see where we can go for there.”
Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. As part of this three-year partnership, Entain are supporting a diverse group 50 of UK athletes per year from a variety of spots and para-sports. Visit entaingroup.com to find out more.