Laura Gater has taken up the post of rowing tutor at the River and Rowing Museum but she also has high hopes of being part of the Olympic women's rowing team. She talks to Jeremy Campbell.

When Laura Gater was reading law at Durham University she spent as much time, if not more, on the river than with her books. It was at university where she discovered a passion for rowing.

Only four years after leaving the ivory towers of learning she won the Senior 1 Single Skulls at Henley Regatta 2005.

Now she has eyes on a bigger prize, and while she has just taken up a post at The River and Rowing Museum, as their first rowing tutor. She also dedicates herself to training with one of the country's most successful clubs, Leander. The club was the home to Matthew Pinsent and Sir Stephen Redgrave during their sparkling careers, and Laura hopes to make the Great Britain Olympic team for 2008 and beyond.

She says it was only a matter of time before she tried her luck in one of the most demanding sports there is.

"Durham is very much a rowing university. There are 13 colleges and each has their own boat club, so it's unlikely that you get through your time at Durham without trying rowing. When I got on the ergometer (rowing machine) I pulled quite a big 2000 metre score, I am quite tall and strong."

She had previously only been on an ergometer a few times while going to the gym.

"I now know that I wasn't using it properly," she laughs.

She then began her career on the water in wide wooden boats with small blades (the part of the oar which contacts the water). Success came quickly but she soon realised there were several levels performance above those she had achieved so readily.

"For the first year I was rowing at college, and our regatta team was winning everything locally, and that makes you think I am quite good at this'.

"Then I tried out for the university, and realised there was a whole new world out there. A lot of rowing professionally is to do with training time, so I just got my head down and got on with it really," she says stoicly.

Anyone who has pulled on an ergometer for ten minutes can barely imagine the routines and capabilities of a top class rower. But as one sports commentator said famously, even if you are incredibly fit, pushing yourself to the limit doesn't hurt any less. Witness messers Redgrave, Pinsent and co passing out from the strain of a session on the ergo during their documented training for the 2000 Olympics. It was enough to put most people off, but Laura Gater is inspired by the challenges of the sport.

"The thing with rowing is you need endurance and strength and skill. There is a lot to cover. I trained very hard at Durham and got fit and strong, but I have to work on the technical side now, which takes time and concentration and coaching."

"This year for the first time in a while they have put together an eight, so that's my aim. I've got a good enough ergo. There are a few of us on the edge of the squad in terms of standards," she says, giving little away about her chances.

"It's nothing I ever thought I could do when I was younger, so since it became a possibility, it takes up a lot of my thinking time. It would be unbelievable, to row for my country. I would still be the right age for 2012 and that would be amazing, to get to compete in the Olympics in your own country, and that's something even the best rowers now won't be able to do because they will be too old."

Her role as rowing tutor with the River and Rowing Museum in Henley involves promoting rowing on different levels to the grass roots, where she educates children in the area about what rowing has to offer; and on the history and heritage of rowing in this country, very much based around the facilities and attractions of the River and Rowing Museum. It is a role which will occupy her during the next three years of preparation for Beijing and trying to make the Olympic eight.

But she also wants to encourage new people into the sport, and hopes, perhaps, to find a new Laura Gater to join her in the London Olympics in 2012, along with others with enthusiasm for the event.

"It's not just people that go and run the 100 metres who can get involved in the Olympics. Children just get excited about it when you talk to them. Not all of them will get to compete there, but they can get involved in other ways, volunteering and helping to organise too."

In local schools we are trying to get children involved to understand a little bit more about rowing."

She says that in spite of the impressive recent history in the sport, it is still a relatively small sport compared to others, and could grow a great deal more.

"Rowing has been the most successful sport for Great Britain in the last two Olympics. It is difficult to get people to try it, as you need a boat for every person, but we want to encourage links with the local community, by doing things like taking ergometers into schools and getting kids to try it out."

The River and Rowing Museum, Henley. Telephone: 01491 415600