Coming from a school of eight students, large team sports were always going to be an unrealistic option for Rebecca Scown.

Coming from a family of strong sporting pedigree, including her uncle who was an All Black and an Olympian cousin, being a successful athlete was a more realistic option.

Last week Rebecca, Olympian number 1208, inspired students at Paraparaumu Beach School talking to them about becoming an Olympic rower.

Paraparaumu Beach School assistant principal Vicki Wilson with two Olympic medals. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Paraparaumu Beach School assistant principal Vicki Wilson with two Olympic medals. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Growing up on a farm in Hāwera, Taranaki, Rebecca moved to Whanganui for high school, attending Wanganui Collegiate School.


It was here that she followed in her siblings' footsteps and took up rowing.

"It wasn't until I went to high school that I gave rowing a go," she said to the students.

"My brother and my sister were both rowing at the time.

"They seemed to be really loving it and having a great time.

"I thought it looked like quite a cool sport out on the water and being on a boat so I wanted to give it a go as well."

However, it wasn't quite 'the rest is history' for Rebecca. Joining the college's rowing team, it wasn't a fairy-tale run of wins but a slow progress involving many years of hard work.

"I joined up with the school's rowing team but we didn't actually win any medals.

"We didn't win anything at school and I didn't know that I could go on and become an Olympian.

"What I did figure out with rowing is that the harder I trained the better the results I got, so it became quite a fun sport for me to work hard at and see where I could go with it.

"There was just this tiny dream that, although I didn't have great results maybe I could make it to the Olympics.

"It was a long shot and I didn't really tell anyone about this dream that I had. I just thought I'd see where I could go."

Rebecca told the students how it took "12 long years of training" before she made it to her first Olympics.

"It didn't happen overnight. There was a lot of training, a lot of hard work and a lot of disappointment along the way."

But Rebecca persevered, claiming bronze with Juliette Haigh in the coxless pair at the summer Olympics in London and competed in the pairs again in Rio, taking out silver with Genevieve Behrent.

While at Paraparaumu Beach School Rebecca shared stories of her time at the Olympics and the Olympic village.

The food hall was a favourite topic, along with sharing some of the Olympic ideals with the students — excellence, friendship and respect, inspiring the students to work hard not just in sport but in everything they do.