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Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Friday, 29 July 2011 09:34 UK

Olympic Dreams: Reading rower Sam Townsend

The British crew of (L-R) Sam Townsend, William Lucas, Marcus Bateman and Charles Cousins compete in the Men's Quadruple Sculls
Sam Townsend(front) transformed himself to become a top rower

As a schoolboy Sam Townsend did not think he would ever have the chance to compete at an Olympic Games, the former Chiltern Edge pupil was an impressive 6ft 6ins tall but also weighed 20 stone.

The Berkshire rower's potential was spotted by a scheme set up to find Olympic stars of the future and despite being clinically obese, in tests it was revealed he had the strength of a highly trained athlete and the potential to excel at rowing.

Townsend did not set foot in a boat until the age of 16, when he was scouted by the Amateur Rowing Association's World Class Start scheme.

The 25-year-old rower from Tokers Green is now set to compete as part of the GB team for the Olympic qualifiers in Slovenia this autumn.

"I was lucky they picked Reading to do the talent scheme," said the men's quadruple scull world finallist. "It shouldn't have worked out for me really.

"I've changed shape and got a lot fitter than I was then."

Townsend says he has never left Reading and chose to attend the town's University due to the proximity of the Caversham Redgrave-Pinsent Lake.

The venue is used as the training centre for GB Rowing and the London 2012 Olympic events will be held just down the road at Dorney Lake, near Windsor.

"It's quite strange that this will be my first Olympics, having missed out on Beijing and it's basically going to be right on my doorstep," said Townsend.

"It's going to be great because there'll be a lot of support from friends and family. It's going to be something pretty special."

Sam Townsend is one of BBC Radio Berkshire's featured athletes as part of 'Olympic Dreams' in the build-up to London 2012.



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