Six-time international medallist Ellie Piggott is retiring from rowing after an 11 year career representing Great Britain
Speaking of her decision to retire, Ellie says: “I’m happy this is the right decision at the right time for me. I’ve loved my time in the team and feel really lucky to have had a fantastic career, travelling the world doing the sport I love and representing my country. I have met some amazing people along the way who have made the experience all the more special and become firm friends beyond the boat. Whilst I will no doubt miss being part of the team, I feel this is a happy retirement and I’m excited for the next challenge now.”
Ellie first represented GB as a junior in 2009 and went on to win gold at the 2013 World U23 Rowing Championships, an achievement which she lists as one of the highlights of her career. She first represented the senior GB Rowing Team in 2014, winning silver at World Cup II.
“Winning at the Worlds in 2016 to become World Champions was another highlight,” Ellie recalls of her success in the lightweight womens’ quad. “It had been a tough year and there was biblical weather in our final but we held our nerve and rowed through the Germans to win.”
In 2018, she won a bronze medal at World Cup 1 in Belgrade in the lightweight women’s double sculls, one of the most heated events of the season, and raced to a fifth place at World Championships. In 2019 she finished less than a second outside the medals at the European Rowing Championships and sixth at World Cup III.
Ellie is hoping that her next challenge will be in management consultancy, a career she has been aiming for since graduating university. She is grateful for the help she’s had with taking her next steps: “British Rowing’s Performance Lifestyle Advisors Mel Chowns and Helen Ferguson have been brilliant. They’ve been a constant source of advice and guidance, as well as giving me a practice grilling ahead of my interviews!” she says.
“They were also instrumental in creating the PwC World Class Leadership scheme for athletes in 2018 which was a really useful and unique opportunity for us to gain professional experience outside of sport. So much of the excitement and confidence I feel for my future is a result of the preparation I’ve put in and support I’ve had during my rowing career.
“Transitioning away from being an athlete definitely takes a lot of getting used to!” she laughs. “It’s not been long for me but it’s already so different from being in a full-time training programme. I love that there are so many new experiences and opportunities to get stuck into now, even in the unusual year that is 2020.
“I’m really grateful for the support network I have to draw on, both of former teammates who have been through the transition process, and the British Rowing mentors such as Tom James and Frances Houghton. Retiring from your first career in your late 20s is an unusual experience, and it has been so useful to draw on their experience and advice.”
She reflects on how her experiences as an athlete have set her up for a future career: “There’s a big people element in being an athlete and you gain experience building teams that are robust and resilient through change, challenges and high pressure moments. A big draw of consultancy is being able to continue that focus on working closely with brilliant people, and I’m excited to take my experience into a new environment.”
Unsurprisingly, her number one highlight of her time on the team is the people she’s met. “My teammates from over the years remain really good friends. I feel really lucky to have met them and lived my rowing career with such great people.”
Lightweight women’s coach Darren Whiter said: “It’s been a privilege to work with Ellie. She has been a fantastic leader within the squad and I’ll always be grateful to her for extending her experience and support to me when I joined the group in 2017. She can be rightly proud of the significant contribution she has made to the success of the lightweight women over the Rio and Tokyo Olympiads. I wish her every success in the future.”
Deputy Director of Performance Pathways and Paralympic Programme Louise Kingsley said: “Ellie has been a fantastic member of the women’s lightweight squad and will be missed around the training centre. I have no doubt she will go on to achieve even more great things in the future.”