Plymouth rower Jacob Dawson seals place at Washington
INTERNATIONAL rower Jacob Dawson's consistently fine set of results has earned the talented teenager a scholarship at one of the United States' leading universities.
Dawson, who has just finished his academic studies at Plymstock School, now embarks on a four-year mechanical engineering degree course coupled with furthering his rowing education at the University of Washington.
The 18-year-old must up stakes and fittingly, given his chosen sport, will cross the pond as early as next week for what he hopes will be a major turning point in his life.
Dawson competes for Plymouth Rowing Club and admitted it will be a wrench to leave his home town, school and friends.
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But he is keenly aware that establishing himself in UW's esteemed rowing ensemble will give his Olympic Games aspirations a hefty shove.
Dawson's appetite for an Olympic place was whetted, but left unsatisfied last month when he watched with goosebumps rising, Great Britain's medal-laden Olympic rowing team compete with fervent support from riverside at Eton and Dorney.
"That was a really fantastic moment and if an athlete needed any inspiration to work as hard as possible, then that was it," said Dawson, who followed last year's double gold-medal winning haul at the European Junior Rowing Championships with further podium places in 2012.
Dawson won two bronze medals at the national indoor championships in London in the spring and claimed first places at the western region single scull series in June and July.
Dawson also helped Plymouth Rowing Club to a first-place prize during the Dartmouth Regatta, while securing an individual third position in the senior 'A' competition.
"The whole Olympic experience fuelled me with a great desire to try and get memories of my own. It was a real 'what-if' moment," said Dawson.
"I'm thrilled to be given the chance to go to the States and attend a great university like Washington.
"The campus has a great reputation academically and they are just as well thought of in sport.
"The Huskies, as their sports teams are called, were over here in the summer and blew away the competition at the Henley Regatta.
"Hopefully, I will be competing there (Henley) next year for Huskies. That would be an awesome experience."
Dawson insisted his Great Britain profile and opportunity to compete for his country would not suffer from his period of residence Stateside.
He praised The Herald-backed Team Plymouth initiative, which helps support athletes like Dawson and their families with much-needed funding.
Dawson said: "It is every athlete's dream to compete for his country and I was really proud to be picked for GB last year. Hopefully, I will become a better rower thanks to my time at Washington and compete for them in their varsity competitions and also at our own nationals and for Team GB at international level.
"I've had a good year already and can't thank the Team Plymouth scheme enough. Their support cannot be understated."