TEENAGE rower Toby Heaton is looking long-term as he pursues his dream of sculling at the 2020 Olympics but needs a leg up.

The 18-year-old, of Purton, only came into the sport two years ago having been idetified as someone with potential to go far in the sport by the coaches on the University of Bath’s World Class Start programme.

Now as he embarks on the next stage in his development he needs to buy his own boat in order to compete and is looking for sponsors to help fund his dream.

The A*-A-A student will be studying medicine at Imperial College London from next month but will continue to pursue his rowing goals whenever he’s not in the classroom. It’s a balance that Heaton is used to. He usually gets up at 5.30am six days a week in order to travel to his training base in Bath for two training sessions of up to an hour and half long.

In the Bath programme Heaton has been given a boat, albeit one that it is not suitable for his size. But now he is moving to London he needs one of his own.

“For the last two years, at the start programme I’ve been using one of the boats there. It’s quite an old boat, and is designed for someone 20kg heavier, so it’s not very fast,” said Heaton.

“When I move to Imperial I won’t have my own boat to use. To be able to progress to the next level, into the Great Britain under 23 squad and hopefully on to the Olympics, I would need my own boat.

“I have applied for sports sponsorship and I get a bit of money but all of my funds at the moment go into travelling and kit, and food, and training. There are quite a lot of expenses.”

Heaton was a latecomer to rowing but showed natural ability and has developed very quickly. Despite the drawbacks of competing in a boat he is not best suited to he has regularly featured in the top seven for his age group, recently winning at the GB Rowing Team’s Sculling Festival.

“When I started I wanted to see how far I could go. When you get on the programme, you get told you have potential to go far. When I was tested they said my results are comparable to Olympians when they were my age, but they would ever tell you there and then you can be an Olympian.

“At the moment I’m 18, I have five years to get into the GB under 23 squad. I’d hopefully break into the squad by the time I’m 20 to 21. I want to step up from the junior trials I’m currently competing in. On the rowing machine it showed I’m progressing with the GB under 18s, but my water speed is a bit behind.

“I didn’t know a huge amount about rowing before I started. I knew what you needed physically, I knew I had the potential to be good at it. Then I trialled and got offered a place World Class Start programme.

“With trials this year, everyone in the sculling squad who went to champs had been rowing for five years but I’d only been rowing for two. But I still got invited to potential camp.

“This was about six months ago so to be in the top 12 after just over a year shows what I can do. But it’s definitely a sport that you need to get some experience in before you can make it at the top level.”

Heaton is hoping to raise about £5,000 and would offer sponsors full branding options, including having their name on the boat and on his kit.

Anyone interested can get in topuch with Heaton on tobyheaton@ymail.com or 07964614704