Rowing purposefully into 2022: Maia Hely FP looking forward to an exciting year ahead by Gary Heatly
When Maia Hely was a pupil at The Mary Erskine School, she took part in lots of different sports but nowadays rowing at a high level is the pastime that takes up most of her time. Maia joined ESMS in the Junior School. Throughout her time at school she was involved in a wide range of activities and in her last year (2017/18) she became School Captain:
“I played football from primary school, where we had a great coach. So the team became quite strong and I carried on playing into senior school.”
“As a team, a lot of us played together from P5 or 6 up to S6 and that was really fun because we created good friendships and a great team spirit.
“I started playing hockey in S1 because I really loved team sports and it was one of the main ones offered at the school. I liked playing that too while I also did some swimming and just generally enjoyed PE and being active.
“Athletics was also one of my main sports and I enjoyed doing the heptathlon. Being athletics Captain in my final year at school was also a nice honour.”
After a sporty time at school, Maia wanted to continue to stay active when she moved on to university but was keen to “try something new”.
That is where rowing came in. Maia is now 21 and in her fourth year of a five year degree at Glasgow University, studying Mechatronics, which is a combination of mechanical and electronic engineering. She explains:
“I had enjoyed all the sports I had competed in at school, but I saw going to university as a fresh start and the chance to give something else a go.
“I had done some indoor rowing when I was at school in house challenges and such like and my parents had suggested I might like to give rowing a proper try at university, so at the sports fayre I went over to the rowing club stall.
“The people there seemed really friendly from the off, so I went along to a couple of sessions with Glasgow University Boat Club and never really looked back.
“The club has experienced coaches and strength & conditioning coaches on hand to help out, so straight away I felt like it was somewhere where I could learn, progress and really set goals for myself.
“I just kept showing up to training in those early months and really enjoyed the camaraderie and the hard work.”
That hard work paid off when, in February 2019, she was selected for the senior women’s eight to take part in the Head of the Tyne race:
“I sat in three seat, surrounded by much more experienced rowers, and I simply tried to copy them,” Maia has previously said.
She then competed for the club at the BUCS Regatta in various categories against the best student rowers from around the country and soon rowing had become a big part of her life.
By the summer of that year Maia had the amazing opportunity to represent Scotland at HIR 2019, at Strathclyde Park and she also reached the final of the famous Henley Women’s Regatta down south:
“That first year of university and rowing was all a bit of a whirlwind when I think back to it now, but it was so exciting and a lot of fun,” she said.
“Glasgow University Boat Club had welcomed me in as a novice and so many people helped me gain confidence on the water and helped me to learn the nuances of the sport.
“In my second year at university I had trials for Great Britain at under-23 level, but sadly the final stages coincided with the pandemic hitting. Nevertheless, it gave me a glimpse of the next level of high performance. Being in that environment- surrounded by athletes I recognised from the GB team and getting the opportunity to try to prove myself showed me that I was doing something right.
“I have since been selected by Scottish Rowing to be part of their Performance Programme and also receive invaluable support from the Scottish Institute of Sport. That means that I now train more with a group of performance athletes, but I am still a big part of the Glasgow University Boat Club and have lots of friends and support from there too which is great.”
So, with Maia now three and a half years into her exciting rowing journey, what are her aspirations in the sport for 2022?
Maia is working with her coaches up here, while being in communication with the coaches down south, and is aiming to make it into the Great Britain under-23s squad come next summer:
“Over the last year I have had ups and downs and I have been coming back from post-viral fatigue syndrome, so I am not quite back to my optimum levels yet, but I am now enjoying getting back to a good level of training and I have a great support team around me who are committed to helping me reach my potential and my goals which is a really positive feeling.
“I am excited for what 2022 has to hold, but first of all I am looking forward to being back in Edinburgh for Christmas, with my family.”