Kyra Edwards appreciates patience will be a virtue when it comes to improving diversity in British rowing and hopes her upcoming World Championship appearance will act as inspiration for the next generation.
The 25-year-old is the only black member of the Great Britain squad heading to the World Championships in the Czech Republic later this month, a situation she is working with key figures at British Rowing and UK Sport to improve.
She has long been a vocal advocate of challenging stereotypes within her sport and described herself as feeling like ‘a guest in a white, privileged space’ in a Metro interview two years ago.
Asked whether the situation has improved in the time since, she said: “There has been a lot of conversation.
“A lot of people have come to me and asked what we could do, there has been a lot of talk about making the situation better and increasing diversity in the sport.
“Whether we’ve made any physical progress yet, I’m not sure.
“It’s hard to say, it’s such a giant topic – it’s not just the GB team, it’s grassroots, and I can’t alone say I know the full scope of the picture.
“I’m sure there will be progress at some point but I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Edwards has been proactive in her efforts to redress the balance, with some signs of progress apparent. British Rowing launched their Commitment to Inclusion Plan in October 2021, while Vwairé Obukohwo has been named in the Under-23 squad heading to the European Championships.
The sculler is currently gearing up for her second senior World Championship appearance, with sights set on an Olympic bow at Paris 2024.
“I have brought quite a few ideas to the table about ways to increase diversity at the top end,” she said.
“We are getting more people through at grassroots level but making that step to elite sport takes a massive investment of money, time and effort.
“I’m really hopeful that going to the World Championships and being visible will help the rest of the sport and show it’s possible to be at the top level.
“We won’t see the repercussions of the effort we’re putting in now for the next few years, probably until the next Olympiad. We’ll see what happens then.”
The Nottingham rower is part of a new-look double sculls partnership with Saskia Budgett, her partner on and off the water.
They marked their first competition as a pair with a fifth-placed finish at last month’s European Championships in Munich and Edwards admitted balancing their intertwined personal and professional lives has been a challenge.
“We’re trying to compartmentalise rowing together and our relationship outside of rowing,” she said.
“We have been in bigger boats together before but this is the first time it’s been just the two of us.
“After being relatively apprehensive going into it, it’s gone way better than we thought it might.
“We can have really honest conversations, we know how to get the best out of each other and what clicks with one another.
“There have been times where I’ve thought ‘I can’t wait to not be your boatmate today and just be your girlfriend’. But ultimately, it has been a really nice journey and we’ve really enjoyed it.
“The Europeans were a stab in the dark – Saskia had only finished her medical exams two weeks beforehand – and fifth was really good for us.
“If we were to medal at the Worlds, we’d probably eat our hats, but in this team we are all aiming high. We’d be really pleased with another final.”
British Rowing is the governing body for the sport and is responsible for the development of rowing in England and the training and selection of rowers to represent Great Britain. The GB Rowing Team is supported by the National Lottery Sports Fund. To find out more, and to follow the ongoing World Championships in Racice, head to https://www.britishrowing.org/