Next up is a man described as Superman by an elite rower in last week’s feature and you’re likely to have regularly seen him at the club for the last few years helping to mould the next group of rowing stars.
Name: John Armstrong
1. When did you start your sport?
At school, age 13 in 1975 at Portora Royal School.
2. Who was your first hero or inspiration in your sport?
My Dad, Mike. He rowed for NI at the Empire games in Cardiff in 1958, while at Queens. He had lots of
trophies in a cabinet in his study, that I admired, and my Mum hated as she had to polish them. I thought I
would like some for myself, so started rowing at school. Being able to row was one of the reasons I went to Portora, even though I knew very little about the sport.
3. What is the best thing you enjoy most about it?
As a rower I loved the feeling of moving a boat effortlessly through the water, being outdoors and sort of
being in control of what I was doing. I also found I was quite good at it and didn’t like rugby, and hated football. As a coach, I love the look on someone’s face when they make the connection between what you have told them and the feeling they have when they get it right.
4. How often do you train or practise at the Belfast Boat Club?
I would coach most days, and more than one session.
5. What is your best achievement to date?
As a rower, winning a bronze medal at the World Championships in 1997. As a Coach, being at London 2012, Paralympic games with the Irish Para 4 and at the World Junior Championships in 2019 with Ireland’s Junior double scull.
6. What are some of your goals for the next five years?
To find enough time and motivation to get my boat back on the water and see if I can find that effortless feeling again, but realise that might be elusive. As a Coach, to see one of the athletes that I have worked
with compete at the Olympic Games.
7. Who do you have around to support and coach you?
My wife as an ex-rower and coach is a great sounding board for ideas. We have a good team of Coaches in the High Performance group at Rowing Ireland and are always learning from each other. I have been fortunate enough to have had a few really good mentors over the last 10 years that have been very supportive and am still in touch with.
8. If failure was not an option what would you love to achieve in your sport?
I would still love to be involved at an Olympic Games.
9. What are some of your other favourite sports or hobbies?
I love cooking, which I find quite therapeutic as well as an outlet for being creative. As an ex-builder, I still
get a buzz from doing DIY and making or fixing things.
10. Why would you recommend your sport to anyone else reading this?
It is just so different from most other sports. It can be team work and individual. It can be social and solitary. It can be very competitive and recreational. It’s very addictive once you get into it and, as addictions go, probably one of the healthier ones.